Refocusing on offense

By Paige Fieldsted, Staff Writer

Knock on wood

Heading into the fourth week of the season, the women’s volleyball team is 100 percent injury free.

Head coach Beth Launiere said it’s common for her team to stay injury free throughout the season, due to preventative measures taken by the coaching staff.

“I’ve always believed in quality over quantity,” she said, “We have taken days off to make sure there are no overuse injuries.”

Defense

Offense is no longer the area of focus for the Utes.

They were out blocked by their opponents 31-25 again this weekend. The team also came up short when it came to digging, saving 161 balls to its opponent’s 165.

“I thought we played hard and scrappy,” Launiere said. “But we have to get better. We have to see things better.”

In addition to getting better physically, the Utes agreed a lot of defensive success comes from mental preparation.

“You have to be ready and expect that every ball is going to come to you,” said libero Keisha Fisher.

The team has worked this week on getting mentally and physically tough on defense.

“Our mind-set has changed from “Can we get that ball up?’ to “We will get that ball up,'” said middle blocker Emillie Toone.

6-2 Rotation

Almost every member of the Utah volleyball team saw action last weekend at the Utah Classic as 11 of the 15 team members got court time.

Stephanie Hodgeman saw the most as she played on the back row in place of outside hitter Kat Haynie. Corinne Crump did the same for starter Cinthia Silva.

“Outside hitters have a lot to do and sometimes the mental focus of passing wears on them,” Launiere said. “We wanted them to have a break and our defense specialists are good enough to step in.”

Other players that saw regular action were setter, Abby Simmons, and middle blocker, Chelsey Sandberg, as the Utes went to a 6-2 offense at the end of almost every set.

Deviating from her preferred 5-1 offense, Launiere ran the 6-2 against all three teams in the Utah Classic.

“We needed to get a bigger block at the end of the game and the 6-2 allows us to do that,” Launiere said.

Launiere also said that the 6-2 offense allows more players time on the court and helps build depth on the team.

“You don’t have depth unless you build it,” Launiere said, “The only way to do that is playing.”

Birthday Presents

In the last match of the Utah classic, it looked like it was Purdue’s birthday and Utah was giving away presents.

A birthday present is a ball overpassed by the receiving team, which sets up a one hit kill opportunity.

In the match against Purdue, Utah gave up eight birthday presents, resulting in a number of successful kills for Purdue.

“It’s like your whole day just ends,” Fisher said in regards to an overpass. “If you overpass, you know you have to get up there and dig it.”

Purdue wasn’t the only one getting presents, however. Utah got its fair share throughout the weekend as well.

“It makes you feel so awesome,” said Karolina Bartkowiak, “You get so pumped up after pounding it in their face.”

Utah hitters agreed that getting a birthday present is one of the better things that can happen in a game.

“You see it coming and know you’re going to slam it down,” Toone said. “And if it hits someone, even better.”

Offense

While the Utah offense has been strong since the beginning of the season, the Utes were held to some of their lowest hitting percentages thus far.

A big Purdue block forced Utah to commit 33 hitting errors, 16 more than their average.

“We have to speed our offense up,” Launiere said, “Speeding up our game will really open things up for our hitters.”

The Utes spent their two practice sessions this week working on offense and speeding their play up.

“We did a lot of work on making our sets quicker and just getting faster,” Launiere said.

Utah begins conference play this week with a road trip and will face No. 15 Colorado State Thursday before meeting with the Wyoming Cowgirls on Saturday in Laramie, Wyo.

[email protected]

Tyler Cobb

Corinne Crump waits during Utah?s win against Utah State last week. The Utes are switching focus from offense to defense as the season continues.