The lure of the U

By By Cody Brunner

By Cody Brunner

When U volleyball coach Beth Launiere took a routine recruiting visit to the Toone residence many years ago, she didn’t expect to walk into the house and see a giant BYU banner hanging on the wall.

“I just about lost it,” Launiere said. “I was literally in shock over the whole thing. It was huge, almost covering the whole wall, and I just couldn’t believe it.”

It turned out to just be a prank the Toone family had pulled on Launiere, but the in-state recruiting rivalry between the two teams is no joke. Several players on each team could have ended up going to the other school if the chips had fallen a different way.

“We recruited Erica Lott and Kim Wilson pretty heavily,” Launiere said of the two current Cougars. “We wanted those two. We wanted Chelsea Goodman as well, but didn’t pursue her nearly as much.”

Lott would have been a welcome signing for the Utes. The junior outside-hitter has been a major offensive threat for the Cougars this season, ranking second in the Mountain West in kills (4.26 per game). She plays second fiddle only to Goodman, who is making quite a name for herself in her junior season, with a conference-leading 4.40 kill-per-game staple.

On the other side of the coin, BYU missed out on a plethora of athletes, who decided the U suited them better.

One of the many is outside-hitter Kate Robison. Robison’s grandfather was a legendary BYU track coach, and her mom is one of only two Cougar basketball players to ever have a number retired. With all of these strong ties to BYU, Robison still picked the U.

Why?

“I loved the feeling that I got when I visited here,” Robison said. “It was a fun environment and I knew I would love it here. I didn’t get that same feeling when I visited BYU. It’s a great school, but it’s not for me.”

Robison’s quarterback on the court, setter Sydney Anderson, was one of the most sought-after recruits in the country a year ago. But the wily demeanor of Launiere and Co. showed up once again as the Utes were able to snag another blue-collar recruit away from the Cougars.

“I am LDS, so that was a big reason why I wanted to go to BYU, but it was the coaches at the U that changed my mind,” Anderson said. “They were a big reason why I came here. That, and I just knew all of the girls and liked them.”

Historically, the “point of the mountain” has served as a divide of sorts, where BYU gets recruits from the south end of the point and Utah get recruits from the north end. But that has not been the case with the Toone family.

“Being from Utah County, it’s always been kind of a big deal that I came here,” Toone said. “I don’t think they ever thought we would come here (her older sister Amie also played for Utes). The BYU flag and funny things like that made the recruiting process a little bit more fun for us.”

Funny for Toone, yes, but not so much for Launiere.

Coach Launiere is in her 17th season as head coach at the U and has built one of the more premiere programs in the country during her tenure. But when asked about how the U is able to consistently grab blue-chip in-state recruits, Launiere refuses to take credit.

“I think the program speaks for itself. It’s an established, consistent, winning program,” Launiere said. “After 10 years of going to the NCAAs, kids feel like they can come here and get to the NCAA tournament, not to mention win Mountain West championships.”

Lennie Mahler

Kate Robison picks up a dig during Sunday’s match against UNLV at Crimson Court. The Utes face rivals BYU at home this Friday looking to continue their winning streak.