Volleyball starts up again

By Paige Fieldsted, Staff Writer

Spring season kicks off

After a few months of working on individual strength training and conditioning, the Utah women’s volleyball team is back on the court.

The Utes, who have been practicing since the beginning of March, hosted the annual Utah spring tournament Saturday8212;with the main focus on getting younger players prime experience.

“Spring play is important for getting players who haven’t had a chance to play some experience on the court,” said head coach Beth Launiere.

At the day-long tournament, the Utes went 3-1, beating Weber State University, College of Southern Idaho and BYU, while losing to Utah Valley University.

“It’s not about the record, or winning or losing,” Launiere said. “It’s about getting better and gaining that experience. Gaining that experience of the pursuit of winning is important, but right now, it’s all about getting better.”

Launiere feels as if her team has improved steadily since they last competed in the Sweet 16 against the Washington Huskies and that spring training has helped her squad get its feet once again.

“It’s going really well, there have been a lot of improvements,” Launiere said. “There is a lot of individual technique improvements as well as getting our system into place for the fall.”

New leaders emerging

Last year was one of the Utes’ most successful seasons to date, as they went 26-6 en route to winning the Mountain West Conference championship and making it to the Sweet 16.

Much of that success can be attributed to the leadership and play of Lori Baird, Emillie Toone and Kathryn Haynie, but with the trio of seniors having graduated and moved on, the Utes are looking for new leaders.

“We did lose a lot of leadership and experience,” Launiere said. “It takes time and experience to become leaders and that’s a big part of our spring training and a main focus for us.”

Senior Chelsey Sandberg and junior Karolina Bartkowiak have been voted as the team captains for the Spring Season and are working hard to the fill the vacancy that was left behind be the graduating seniors.

“They are doing an excellent job. They are working hard at becoming leaders and learning what it takes,” Launiere said. “They are really stepping up and taking responsibility for this team.”

Staff changes

In addition to changes in leadership roles among the players, spring has brought about changes in the coaching staff as well.

After former assistant coach, Burt Fuller, accepted a position at Marquette University, the Utes’ second assistant coach, Heather Olmstead, has moved up to take his position.

“It’s a great opportunity for Heather to spread her wings and take on a new role, and I’m excited for her,” Launiere said. “She’s getting more involved with different areas8212;video, stats and on-court training. She’s doing a great job.”

Brian Doyon, former head coach at Battle Mountain high school in Vail, Colo., will be joining the Utes’ staff to take Olmstead’s former position.

“We are really excited to have Brian on staff,” Launiere said. “He is just a quality, energetic person. He’s been at the high school and club level and is going to work a little more on recruiting, which is great because he is familiar with high school players.”

The Utes will continue their spring play at the Santa Barbara, Calif., tournament on April 11 before finishing up at CBS Collegiate Beach National Championships on April 18.

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Lucas Isley

The Ute volleyball team used the recent months to focus on individual strength and skills.