Utah volleyball loses two elite players, questions unanswered

By By Cody Brunner

By Cody Brunner

The U volleyball team took an immense hit last Monday when sophomore Airial Salvo and freshman Sydney Anderson asked coach Beth Launiere for release from their scholarships at the university. The reasons behind their decisions are undisclosed.

“It came as a shock to all of us,” said Utah libero Connie Dangerfield, who will be a senior next season. “We didn’t hear of any unhappiness or anything. It’s just really tough because those are also our friends we are losing.”

Since the decisions might be fueled by the need to play for a more prestigious program than the U, outside interference hasn’t yet been ruled out.

When asked about her decision to leave Utah, Salvo said she had “been advised not to talk to anybody.” Anderson could not be reached for comment.

The Salt Lake Tribune reported Salvo’s mother, Lori Salvo, as saying that the staff of the U.S. Women’s National A2 team told her that the Mountain West Conference was “just not that tough.” Both Airial Salvo and Anderson had recently qualified for the A2 team, which is one step below the U.S. Women’s Olympic team.

Additionally, Lori Salvo said that her daughter and Anderson “want to play for a national championship and become Olympians.”

“We’ll be calling USA Volleyball about comments made in The Tribune and finding out where that came from,” Launiere said. “This program was good before they came and it will still be good long after they leave?We have a lot of talent in our gym still, and I think my program speaks for itself. The reputation and the success of it will continue.”

The pair shined for the Utes this season, with both receiving All-Mountain West Conference honors for their efforts. Airial Salvo was selected as the MWC Player of the Year and Anderson was picked as its top freshman. Airial Salvo also received national honors, as she was named a second-team All-American.

But all the conference and national accolades weren’t enough to keep Airial Salvo and Anderson at the U.

“If they felt like this team wasn’t good enough, then I don’t think we would have reached our goals anyways,” Launiere said. “It takes a team to win, not individuals.”

Most of the Utes say that they were hurt about the unexpected departure of their close friends and teammates-some feeling a sense of abandonment. But they are slowly learning to cope with the loss by getting back into their familiar spring/summer routine of hitting the weight room and pounding volleyballs.

“I’m really proud of how the team has bonded together and responded to this surprise announcement,” Launiere said. “Everybody on the team was just as surprised as I was, but we’re moving forward. This is our team now, and we’re going to go be great.”

Despite losing two key players, the Utes still return a roster full of experienced athletes. Emillie Toone and Lori Baird will be back at middle blockers, Kate Robison and Kathryn Lovell will be on the outsides and 2004 MWC Libero of the Year Dangerfield returns on the back row.

“We still have such a strong nucleus coming back and the rest of us have really bonded through this,” Dangerfield said. “If they need to leave for themselves, then we’re going to be fine without them.”