Utes close season at Crimson Court

By By Cody Brunner

By Cody Brunner

The Utah volleyball team (22-2, 13-0 MWC) will play its regular season home finale tonight, facing off against Wyoming (11-12, 5-7 MWC) on Crimson Court. Earlier this year, the Cowgirls proved to be quite a hurdle for the Utes, winning the first two games of the match before succumbing to the No. 9-ranked U for three consecutive games.

“They played us tough in Wyoming,” coach Beth Launiere said. “We were fortunate to get the win over there because they played well. It wasn’t a fluke; they played really good defense, but we fought through it.”

Utah is coming off two impressive road wins over TCU and New Mexico and hopes to carry its momentum into Crimson Court tonight.

On the flip side, the come-from-behind Ute victory devastated the Cowgirls, as they were on a seven-match slide. Wyoming has since recovered from the slump, winning the last three matches in convincing fashion. Most recently, the Cowgirls handled UNLV and San Diego State on consecutive nights in Laramie, Wyo.

“Wyoming is playing some of their very best volleyball right now,” Launiere said. “They have won three straight?we have to come prepared.”

A lot of that preparation will be focused on stopping Cowgirl outside-hitter Rachel Smith, who comes into the match averaging 3.65 kills per game to rank sixth in the Mountain West Conference.

On the other side of the offense is outside-hitter Annie Myers, who has caused a considerable amount of damage herself this year in racking up 3.05 digs per game.

Guiding the Wyoming offense this year is Tasha Weishahn. The sophomore setter is averaging 10.68 assists per game to rank fifth in the conference. Weishahn and the rest of the Cowgirl offense has their hands full tonight, though, as Utah ranks No. 1 in the nation in blocks.

Defensively for Wyoming, middle-blocker Andrea Seele leads the team at the net, tallying 1.05 blocks per game. Fellow middle-blocker Lauren Scott has also done a decent job for the Cowgirls, picking up 1.00 block per game.

Anything that gets past the two defensive stalwarts will be fielded by sophomore libero Samantha Eley, who has snagged 3.59 digs per game thus far this season. Eley will need to bring her game against the Utes tonight because she will be digging balls against one of the most versatile offenses in the country.

Emillie Toone, Airial Salvo, Whitney Webb and Lori Baird are all hitting above .300 for the season. Salvo leads the team in kills (4.18 per game) and pitched a brilliant weekend against TCU and New Mexico. The sophomore outside-hitter hammered down 35 kills between the two games. Salvo currently ranks eighth in the Mountain West in hitting percentage (.304), second in kills (4.18), first in service aces (0.45), second in total points (5.02) and tenth in digs (3.46).

The Utes head into the match with a flawless conference record and are currently on a 20-game win streak. If they can get past the Cowgirls, they will look to finish off their schedule unscathed on the road against Air Force and Colorado State.

“When we went up there, we did not play our best volleyball match,” U libero Connie Dangerfield said. “I don’t think they know how good we are, so we’re going to show them. Our goal is to take them in three (games).”

Lennie Mahler

Whitney Webb blocks a swing taken by BYU’s Kim Wilson in the Utes’ Oct. 27 win at Crimson Court.