Versatile U offensive attack has opponents reeling

By By Cody Brunner

By Cody Brunner

For a lot of volleyball teams in the Mountain West Conference, there is one player that carries the team. At BYU, it’s Chelsea Goodman. UNLV’s go-to is Maria Aladjova, while SDSU prefers Melanie Greene.

Utah opponents are finding out that this is not the case for the Utes this year.

“We have so many people that can get kills for us,” U coach Beth Launiere said. “Not only our hitters, but Sydney (Anderson) attacks from her setter position, too. I really feel like any one of five players can lead us at any time.”

That versatility is very evident when looking at the U’s stats, as four different players have led the Utes in kills over the last seven matches.

Anderson is just one of the many positional players for the U who presents a threat to opposing teams. The freshman from Alta High is quite an oddity for her position, since not many setters in the conference are as aggressive as she is on the offensive end of the court.

“Sydney is a very offensive-minded setter,” Launiere said. “She is very aggressive, and she’s able to get us kills, so that’s just one more thing opposing teams have to worry about.”

When Anderson isn’t causing headaches with her own offense, she is setting a plethora of teammates who are perfectly capable of wreaking havoc on opponents.

One of the many options Anderson has is outside-hitter Airial Salvo. The sophomore averaged an impressive 5.33 kills per game in two sweep victories last weekend.

“The last few matches, Airial has come up huge for us,” Launiere said. “We’ve been working on some sets to try to get her the ball more often, and I think she’s making the most of her sets.”

Complementing Salvo on the right side is outside-hitter Whitney Webb. The junior is coming off her second consecutive Mountain West Conference Player of the Week Award after two notable all-around performances last week. Webb averaged 3.83 kills, 3.67 digs and 1.33 blocks per game for the U, while hitting a team-high .541.

“We’re getting the ball to Whit (Webb) in a lot of different situations,” Launiere said. “A lot of teams aren’t able to utilize their right side like we are able to with Whit, but she continues to be a huge threat for us.”

Also coming up huge for the Utes is outside-hitter Kathryn Lovell. The sophomore from Woods Cross High ranks second on the team in kills (3.05 kpg) and is gaining quite a reputation in the conference.

“Kat (Lovell) is an attacker. That is what she does,” Launiere said. “She has a live arm, and she just gets kill for us. That’s the No. 1 reason she’s out there, and that’s what she brings to this team.”

Rounding out the “offensive five” is outside-hitter Kate Robison. The junior provides some much-needed depth coming off the bench and gave the Utes a massive boost in Wyoming, picking up a career-high 17 kills to go along with 18 digs.

“Kate is not afraid to make mistakes, so she’s able to really shift the momentum of a match,” Launiere said. “That’s what she did in Wyoming. She doesn’t play with any fear, and it’s great to have a player come in and do that.”

Lennie Mahler

Emilie Toone tips the ball over UNLV blockers Sunday as the Utes went on for a 3-0 win and their 17th-straight victory.