Volleyball team looks to continue winning streak on the road

By Paige Fieldsted, Staff Writer

The women’s volleyball team will be looking to continue its winning ways on the road this weekend, as the Utes travel to the New Mexico State Tournament.

The team will be playing four games in a three-day period, including matches against Texas, Florida Gulf Coast, Houston and New Mexico State.

After a strong offensive start to the season last weekend, the Utes have been focusing on defense all week in practice.

“We have been working a lot on blocking,” Lori Baird said. “That was something we struggled with in our first games.”

In the first two games of the season, Utah was out-blocked by opponents 22-16. The Utes also tallied fewer digs than their opponents. Head coach Beth Launiere said that the focus on offense and getting new setters into a groove is to blame for the slack on defense.

“At the beginning of the season, we’re not as focused on defense,” Launiere said. “We’re going to get a lot more disciplined and better in that area as the season progresses.”

With most of the season still ahead of it, the volleyball team has been working hard to prepare mentally and physically for the challenge of playing a lot of games in a short amount of time.

“It’s not easy playing in tournament-like situations,” Launiere said. “But we wanted to get a lot of volleyball under their belts early in the season.”

Part of the mental preparation has included working with a sports psychologist on a regular basis.

“She keeps reminding us that we all have our own individual pre-game rituals and that even in back-to-back game situations we need to take time out from the gym and prepare ourselves mentally for the match to come,” Baird said.

Two-a-day practices earlier in the season have helped prepare the Utes physically for playing back-to-back matches.

The team also had Monday off to give them a break.

“We wanted them to have a day completely away from volleyball,” Launiere said.

With so many opponents ahead of them, the team hasn’t been focusing on what will be happening on the other side of the net.

“We haven’t been able to watch film on any of the other teams,” Baird said. “We have just been working on our part of the game.”

Playing away from Crimson Court is another challenge some of the newer team members might have to deal with over the weekend.

“The energy is always different on the road,” Launiere said. “But you have to make sure your team has that energy, that you don’t have to rely on the crowd for that.”

While Utah will of course be focused on winning this weekend, Launiere also hopes to continue coming together as a team.

“We’re going to learn a lot about our team in four matches and really see what we’re about,” she said. “The first part of the season is always spent defining a team and this weekend will give us a big opportunity to do that.”

Utah starts tournament play with a match against Texas at 4:30 p.m. today, and will face Florida Gulf Coast and Houston Saturday at 10 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., respectively. The Utes will finish up the tournament against New Mexico State at 7 p.m. on Sunday.

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Lucas Isley

Lori Baird goes for the kill against UVU last weekend. The volleyball team heads to the New Mexico State Tournament this weekend and hopes to win the four games they will play there.