Utes prep for road swing

By By Cody Brunner

By Cody Brunner

The No. 9 U volleyball team (20-2, 11-0 MWC) takes its unstoppable 18-match winning streak on the road this weekend, playing TCU (17-9, 5-7 MWC) and New Mexico (7-17, 3-9 MWC) on consecutive nights in hopes of remaining undefeated in conference play.

The Utes have not lost a match since Sept. 2, when they traveled to Los Angeles and lost a 3-1 decision to the USC Trojans. It’s been more than 60 days since the match and the Utes are still on a roll. They will try to continue that streak this weekend.

Despite the two tough road opponents looming this weekend, U head coach Beth Launiere said that the Utes’ biggest opponents are themselves.

“I think it’s all about us. It’s all about our preparation,” Launiere said. “We need to go in more prepared than we did with Wyoming and if we do that, then I think we will take care of business.”

Launiere refers to the Utes’ last trip outside of the friendly confines of Crimson Court, where the team fell behind 2-0 before collecting itself and winning on the road in Laramie, 3-2.

The Utes will try to find their rhythm much more quickly tonight when they travel to Fort Worth, Texas, to take on the Horned Frogs.

Earlier this year, the Utes dominated the Horned Frogs on Crimson Court in three games, winning by scores of 30-27, 30-17 and 30-14. Lauren Otto and Kourtney Edwards led the Horned Frogs’ offense in the match with seven kills apiece and will surely try to penetrate the stingy Ute defense tonight.

On the opposite side of the ball, outside-hitter LeMeita Smith ranks second on the team with a 2.99 kill-per-game staple. Leading the TCU offense is middle-blocker Anna Vaughn, who comes into the match averaging 3.54 kills per game, ranking seventh in the Mountain West Conference. The senior is also the Horned Frogs’ most consistent hitter, as she enters the contest with a .350 hitting average.

Defensively, Vaughn also leads TCU at the net with 1.04 blocks per game. Anything that gets past the front row will be fielded by libero Calli Corley. The senior averages 4.58 digs per game to rank third in the conference, but has her work cut out for her tonight when she tries to stop one of the more potent offenses in the league in Utah.

If the Utes can get by the Horned Frogs, they will look for their 20th consecutive victory on Saturday night in Albuquerque, N.M. The Lobos will try to recover against the Utes after dropping eight of their last nine matches.

Leading the New Mexico offense into the match is outside-hitter Jeanne Fairchild, who is averaging 3.01 kills per game. Countering Fairchild’s attack on the opposite side is senior Kelly Therkelsen, who comes into the match averaging 2.78 kills per game on .225 hitting. Guiding the Lobos’ offense with the grossest name ever and a 10.40 assist-per-game average is setter Sarah Kwasigroch.

On defense, the Lobos’ Joelle Ingram and Anne Lehne lead the team with 1.11 and 1.06 blocks per game, respectively. Gayle Tripp has been New Mexico’s best back-row defender this year, with a 4.36 dig-per-game average.

“We have to be prepared for both matches this weekend,” Launiere said. “With a tough travel schedule and two very competitive teams like New Mexico and TCU, we have to go into it knowing that it’s going to take a great effort to win at both places.”

Lennie Mahler

Airial Salvo tips the ball over BYU blockers Friday in the Utes’ win at Crimson Court.