Utes’ faith in their hands

The U volleyball team is flirting with something that hasn’t happened to head coach Beth Launiere since 1995 — and it has nothing to do with any record-breaking feats.

With five games left in the regular season, the Utes (10-12, 6-5) are a few losses away from their first losing season in 12 years. To make matters steeper for the Utes, four of their five remaining opponents are ahead of Utah in the conference standings, and all have defeated Utah once this season, with the exception of New Mexico.

With that uphill task, there is a potential reward.

The Utes sit at No. 6 in the conference, but if they can make it through the remainder of their regular-season schedule unscathed, they will be guaranteed the No. 3 seed going into the conference championship.

With their destiny still in control, the Utes have more than just pride to play for this weekend.

“We have a great opportunity this weekend to play New Mexico and TCU, and we’re going to do good,” Kate Robison said.

The Utes will first take on the TCU Horned Frogs in an attempt to avenge one of their most disappointing losses of the season.

Back on Oct. 6, the Utes took an early 2-0 lead on TCU, only to get completely blindsided by a resurgent Horned Frog effort. The Utes went on to lose the final three games and the match.

After taking on TCU in Fort Worth, Texas, the Utes will travel to Albuquerque to take on New Mexico, which is one of four MWC teams the Utes have defeated this season.

When the Utes last confronted the Lobos on Oct. 5, they came through with one of their most convincing wins of the season. The Utes will look to repeat that performance on Saturday, but to do so, they’ll have to iron out their problems — particularly on offense.

Despite hitting .274 in a loss to Utah State on Tuesday, the Utes’ offense has been far and wide the most glaring inconsistency for the Utes this year.

Utah is hitting .177 on the season, which is below the MWC average of .256.

The glaring reason for the Utes low hitting percentage stems from their gaudy error totals. The Utes average 7.97 errors per game, which is the highest total in the Mountain West Conference. Part of the reason for this unusually high total has come from having two freshman setters who are learning to effectively read the block and simultaneously set the U hitters for success. The other problem seems to lie in the dual responsibility of hitting and passing with the outside hitters.

Although Launiere addressed both problems, it seems that team chemistry is the primary concern on the mind of the players. Directly following the loss to Utah State, the seniors held a players-only meeting.

Whether or not that meeting helps the Utes come together for the last five games of the season will be seen tonight at 6 p.m.

As always, the game can be followed at the links available at www.utahutes.com.

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