The fresh maker

The U volleyball team is going through a dry spell that is uncharacteristic for a Beth Launiere-led team within the last decade. But Launiere’s response to her team’s losing funk is one that has typified her tenure as the head coach of the Utes.

Ask anyone who is a part of the U volleyball team and he or she will admit there are immediate things the Utes can and need to work on. But instead of spending Sunday and Monday pounding lessons into her players after opening the conference schedule 0-2 for the first time in about a decade, Launiere took a step back and prescribed a different method of treatment for her team: a day off.

“I think they’re pretty tired,” Launiere said. “We’ve been on the road four of our first five weeks out. We’re not making excuses at all. I just think we need to regroup and get back in the gym.”

With a less-than-friendly start to their conference schedule, the Utes have not had much time to relax or focus on their primary objective while at the U: studying.

“They need time to deal with their school work,” Launiere said. “We’ve been on the road so much, the stress of their academics, and they need a day to regroup personally and get their bodies rested.”

Although the Utes welcomed their day off on Monday, it wasn’t easy for the players to control the itch of getting back in the gym. Following the Utes’ 3-1 loss to UNLV on Saturday, the Utes took upon themselves a collective resolve to fix the flaws that have prevented the Utes from collecting more wins — especially in the close matches.

“We just came to the conclusion that we need to get into the gym and work harder than we ever have before,” said Utah libero Connie Dangerfield. “Everyone has to take responsibility for the things we need to get better at, but they need to have the team in mind also. We can only go up from here.”

With the exception of the Utes’ opening-season match against UCLA, the team has been in every one of its seven losses. But the fact that the Utes have closed out one of their eight tightly contested matches is a haunting feeling that Launiere and her players want to rinse from their palate as soon as possible.

“We definitely need to figure out how to win the close games,” Launiere said. “I don’t feel like we’re very far away, we just need to get over that hump — and to gain a little confidence.”

The first opportunity to obtain that winning feeling again will come Friday night when the Utes are set to battle Colorado State. But the Rams won’t be the only thing the Utes will be up against at 7 p.m. on Crimson Court. History will also be rearing its head.

Since 1993 — the first year Launiere led the Utes to a 20-win season after inheriting a 1-32 team just four years earlier — the U volleyball team has had three 0-2 starts to conference play. In that time, the Utes have never started 0-3.

Besides the figurative target the Utes will carry on their back all season after going 16-0 in conference play last season, the Utes will face a very talented Rams team that is chomping at the bit to redeem last year’s 3-0 sweep it suffered in Salt Lake City.

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Lennie Mahler

Whitney Webb and Chesley Sandberg jump to block an attack in the Utes’ loss against USC. After opening the conference season 0-2 for the first time in almost a decade, the Utes look for a win Friday against Colorado State at Crimson Court.