Volleyball continues Mountain West dominance

By By Cody Brunner

By Cody Brunner

On Monday, U volleyball coach Beth Launiere said the Utes (19-2, 10-0) were going to do some things to try to get outside-hitter Airial Salvo the ball more often.

True to her word, Launiere did just that last weekend, and Salvo took advantage. The sophomore racked up 32 kills in six games to lead the No. 10 Utes to their 16th and 17th consecutive victories.

“The coaches have been trying to get me to be more physical,” Salvo said. “Last year, I kind of tried more touch shots and they’ve been trying to get me to be more physical and I think I’ve done that.”

Salvo and the Utes continually staved off attacks from both the UNLV (14-8, 5-5) and San Diego State (8-14, 2-8) to extend their win streak.

On Friday night, Utah dismantled the Aztecs with an impressive .333 hitting percentage on their way to an easy 3-0 victory.

The Utes utilized an array of Lori Baird kills to jump out to an 11-4 lead early in game one. Despite a pair of vicious Salvo kills, the Aztecs were able to mount a small comeback, closing the gap to 16-12. The Utes didn’t allow them to get too close, though, using tough defense at the net to rack up multiple blocks and go on a 5-1 run (22-13). The Aztecs didn’t give up there as they went on a 5-1 run of their own behind strong outside play, closing the margin to 23-18. Strong serving from the U’s Kate Robison kept San Diego State on its heels and the Utes put them away, finishing a 30-22 win on an Emillie Toone kill.

Toone continued to dominate through the start of the second game, tallying two kills and a block to lead the Utes to a 5-1 lead. Salvo extended that lead to seven later in the game when she sent a punishing kill into the Aztec back row and the Utes took a 12-5 lead. The Utes furthered that lead even more when Whitney Webb asserted herself with a pair of solid blocks and a kill of her own, running the lead to 20-10. From there, the Utes closed the game with relative ease, using a plethora of attacks from Baird and Salvo to win 30-17.

The Aztecs bounced back in the third game, catching the Utes off-guard early to jump out to a 5-2 lead. Utah responded with a trio of tough serves from Robison, keeping the Aztecs on their heels as they tied the game at six. The Utes were able to keep their momentum going behind a pair of kills from Webb and took a 12-9 lead. San Diego State battled back to tie the game at 14, but the U offense proved to be too potent, scoring nine of the next 12 points to take a six-point lead, 23-17.

Frustrated by the officiating, Aztec coach Mark Warner proceeded to call the line judge a “cheater” and was kicked out of the match.

The Utes continued to dominate after the incident, utilizing several Aztec hitting errors to finish the game, winning 30-23.

Salvo led the Ute offense in the match with 16 kills, while Toone led the team in hitting with a .692 staple. The junior middle-blocker also stuffed the Aztec offense for six blocks in the match.

“I thought we executed really well,” Launiere said. “We had a few lapses where they got some runs of points, but overall I extremely pleased with our effort.”

On Sunday afternoon, the U ran its consecutive win total to 17 with a sweep victory over the Rebels.

Salvo started the Utes out in the first game with a pair of crushing kills and Utah jumped out to a 5-1 lead. The Rebels answered back with a 6-0 run of their own thanks to a string of Ute hitting errors. Utah battled their way back into the game behind a trio of tough serves from Baird and the Utes took a one-point advantage. With yet another Salvo kill, the Utes pulled ahead even further, expanding their lead to three. Fighting off multiple comeback attempts from the Rebels, the Utes were able to close the game from there with strong outside hitting from Kathryn Lovell, winning 30-25.

The Rebels opened up hot in game two, using the stalwart U defense against itself to score multiple side-outs and take a 10-5 lead. UNLV wasn’t able to hold the Utah defense at bay for too long, though, as the Utes pieced together a 7-1 run on a multitude of blocks (12-11). The Utes maintained that momentum with a plethora of kills from Salvo, Baird and Toone to open up a 23-20 lead. From there, the Utes cruised to an easy victory, finishing the game on a pair of Webb kills to win 30-24.

Toone opened up the third game with a pair of kills to give the Utes a 4-2 lead early. The Utes expanded that lead to five later in the game with the help of a pair of Rebel hitting errors, pushing the score to 16-11. UNLV closed the gap to one, but the U offensive attack proved to be too much for yet another opponent as they iced the game on a Salvo kill, winning 30-27.

Salvo led the Ute offense once again with 16 kills, giving her a 5.33 kill-per-game average for the weekend. On the other side, Webb pitched in seven kills in the final frame to run her match total to 14.

“As usual, Whit got a lot of big, timely kills for us tonight,” Launiere said. “She’s plays with a lot of passion and is a real competitor and I think that shows up.”

Toone and Sydney Anderson led the U defense at the net, racking up six blocks apiece. Connie Dangerfield paced the Utes from the back row, picking up 17 digs to stall the Rebel offense.

The Utes will continue action this Friday when they take on the No. 18 BYU Cougars on Crimson Court.

Lennie Mahler

Whitney Webb spikes the ball in the Utes’ 3-0 victory over UNLV Sunday evening at the Crimson Court; Webb totaled 14 kills on the night.