Utes circling for home stretch

By By Cody Brunner

By Cody Brunner

The No. 10 U volleyball team will look to keep its 15-match winning streak alive this weekend when it takes on UNLV (14-6, 5-3 MWC) and San Diego State (8-12, 2-6 MWC) on Crimson Court.

The Utes return home after an impressive come-from-behind victory last weekend over Wyoming. Utah fell behind 2-0 in the match before finding itself-especially on defense-and winning the next three games.

Emillie Toone recorded an impressive 14 blocks to lead the Utes at the net and move back into the No. 1 spot nationally (1.90 blocks per game). Lori Baird also recorded 13 block assists, which happens to be a Utah school record.

That stingy defense will surely play a huge role this weekend when the Utes host a multitude of offensive threats in UNLV and San Diego State.

Leading the way for SDSU tonight will be outside-hitter Melanie Greene. The senior buoys the team with 3.77 kills per game and will be the main focus for the U defense.

“Melanie is one of their better athletes and their emotional leader,” said U head coach Beth Launiere. “We always try to pick out the emotional leader on every team and get on them early and not let them get into a rhythm.”

Countering Greene’s attack on the other side will be Stephanie Darnall, who comes into the match with a 3.32 kill-per-game average.

Quarterbacking the offense from the setter position will be Leah Lathrop. The sophomore comes into the match carrying a 9.89 assist-per-game average to rank ninth in the conference.

Defensively, Salt Lake City native Kelley Wahlin leads the way for the Aztecs. The junior middle-blocker from Lone Peak High averages 1.27 blocks per game to rank sixth in the conference.

“Wahlin is really playing well for them,” Launiere said. “She had about seven or eight blocks against us last time, so we’re going to have to alter our offense a little bit to make her move.”

Anything that gets past the outstretched arms of Wahlin will be fielded by the No. 1 libero in the conference in Aime Cordeiro. The junior has amassed a 5.55 dig-per-game average to pace the Aztec defense.

If the Utes can get past San Diego State, they will look for their 17th consecutive victory on Sunday against the UNLV Rebels.

Utah traveled down to Las Vegas earlier in the year and came out victorious, winning 3-1. Outside-hitter Maria Aladjova led the Rebels in the match with 20 kills and will likely be the focal point of the offense once again.

“Maria had a great match against us down there (Las Vegas),” Launiere said. “She is probably the only outside-hitter in the conference that Whitney (Webb) kind of struggled with at times. She is just a tremendous hitter. We need to find an answer for her.”

Setting the ball for the star outside-hitter will be Melody Nua, who comes into the game with 10.00 assists per game to rank eighth in the Mountain West.

Defensively, the Rebels boast the best back row in the conference, averaging an imposing 19.50 digs per game. The mark also ranks on the national level, coming in eighth.

“UNLV just digs balls. You have to expect to be in long rallies against them because they dig so many,” Launiere said.

Leading the Rebels in digs this year is junior libero Jada Walker, who comes into the match averaging 5.04 digs per game.

The Utes will try to remain undefeated in conference play this weekend when they return home to face off against San Diego State and UNLV. Opening serve is set for 7 p.m. tonight against the Aztecs. The Utes face UNLV on Sunday at 4 p.m.

Kim Peterson

Emillie Toone gets a kill in the Utes’ 3-0 victory against UVSC on Oct. 10. The Utes play San Diego State at 7 p.m. this Friday night at Crimson Court.