Utes continue MWC roll

By Paige Fieldsted, Staff Writer

The Utah women’s volleyball team continued its recent domination of the Mountain West Conference as it defeated TCU in three sets, good for its ninth straight MWC win.

Utah soundly beat the Horned Frogs in front of pink-clad fans who showed up to support and promote breast cancer awareness on Sunday afternoon at Crimson Court.

“It was a fun way to celebrate those people we were playing for and to show our love and support for them,” said middle blocker Emillie Toone.

The Utes wore pink ribbons in their hair and pink socks as they dedicated the match to all those who are fighting or have won their battle with breast cancer.

“It is such an important cause and the team really rallied behind it with the socks and ribbons and pink shirts,” said head coach Beth Launiere.

Breast cancer awareness is especially important to the Utes since setter Stephanie Shardlow’s mom was diagnosed with the disease three years ago.

“It was really special with Shardlow’s mom there,” Launiere said. “We really played the game for her.”

The Utah defense was key to the win, as the team blocked 12 balls and held TCU to a .048 hitting percentage and forced 24 hitting errors.

Toone was the catalyst behind the defense with eight blocks on the match. Keisha Fisher and Kathryn Haynie both had eight digs on the back row, and Haynie pitched in four blocks of her own.

“We played very good defense,” Launiere said. “TCU didn’t have great flow, they were disrupted throughout the whole match and had to keep changing the lineup.”

After spending the short practice week working on serving and passing, the Utes have shown improvement in those areas.

Utah had just four serving errors and one receiving error in the three-set match.

“We had stretches of serving that lasted seven or eight points,” Toone said. “We really stepped up from last week.”

On offense, Utah had to look beyond its recent go-to option as TCU applied a tough block on Lori Baird, which shut down the powerhouse middle blocker.

“Its seemed like they put eight blockers on Lori, but Chelsey (Sandberg) really stepped up for us and got a lot of kills when we needed them,” Launiere said.

Baird, who has been averaging 11 kills per set, had only five against TCU. Other Utah players stepped up and filled the void.

Toone led the offense with 13 kills, while Haynie had nine and Sandberg added eight.

“We played together as a team and had a lot of fun and that’s what really mattered,” Toone said.

Utah, which is sitting comfortably at No. 2 in the MWC, is facing its last road trip of the year, as they travel to San Diego State and UNLV next week.

Despite being in a good position to get into the NCAA tournament, Launiere said that is the farthest thing from the team’s mind right now.

“We’ve talked about getting back to the championship before, but right now, we’re not focusing on anything but controlling what we do everyday,” Launiere said. “We have to focus on what we can control and let the winning take care of itself.”

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Thien Sok

Emillie Toone and the Utah team wore pink in their hair and pink socks during Saturdays game in dedication to those fighting for breast cancer.