Conference play resumes on road

By Paige Fieldsted, Staff Writer

One down, two to go.

The Utah volleyball team is a third of the way through its games this week after beating Weber State in four sets on Tuesday.

The remainder of the Utes week consists of conference games, starting tonight with TCU and ending with New Mexico on Saturday.

“TCU and New Mexico are fighting to be in the top half of the conference just like we are,” said head coach Beth Launiere. “We’re going to have to perform well on the road if we want to win.”

The TCU Horned Frogs are 2-1 in the Mountain West Conference after they beat San Diego State in three last week. Utah comes into the match 1-2 in the MWC8212;the team’s only conference win coming against Air Force last week after they suffered losses to Colorado State and Wyoming the week before.

TCU has the edge over the Utes when it comes to statistics as they lead the Utes in kills, assists, aces, digs and blocks per set.

Utah will need to put up a strong block in order to slow down the TCU offense, which leads the MWC with 13.5 kills per set.

“I still don’t think we are blocking enough balls, but we are touching a lot more balls and slowing things down,” Launiere said.

The block will also need to be defended against setter Nirelle Hampton, who is averaging 3.75 kills per match, which is three more kills per match than either Utah setter is averaging.

In practice on Monday, Utah inserted assistant coach Heather Olmstead as setter to simulate the kind of offense they would see from Hampton.

“We know she is a very offensive setter,” middle blocker Emillie Toone said. “We’ve been preparing all week to be ready for that.”

Aside from getting ready for Hampton, Utah isn’t doing anything special to prepare for either of the upcoming games.

The Utes’ usual prepartions include: watching game tapes, going over lineups and focusing on improving their game.

“We’re working hard every day in practice,” blocker Lori Baird said. “We’re just preparing like we always do.”

Although a tough defense will be necessary for Utah to beat TCU, the tables are turned when it comes to the New Mexico game.

After working all week in practice on first ball kills, Utah will need to put what they’ve worked on into a game situation as a powerful offense will be needed from the Utes in order to beat New Mexico, who is leading the conference in holding teams to low hitting percentages.

“First ball kills are really important for us,” Launiere said. “We want to be able to get sideouts faster.”

The Lobos are holding their opponents to a low average .125 hitting percentage. New Mexico also leads the conference in service aces and assists per set, and is sitting in second with 15 digs per set.

“We’re going to have to come out ready to play and finish strong,” Toone said.

Utah will take on TCU tonight at 7 p.m and New Mexico Saturday at 1 p.m. and will be back in action at Crimson court for more MWC volleyball as they take on UNLV and San Diego State next week.

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Lucas Isley

Emillie Toone will face Nirelle Hampton of TCU who is averaging 3.75 kills per match this season.