Launiere leads the Utes from snow to the beach

By Paige Fieldsted, Staff Writer

The Utah women’s volleyball team is getting out of the snow and heading to the beach.

The Utes have been invited to compete in the fourth annual Collegiate Beach Volleyball Championship in Riverside, Calif., along with seven other top programs from around the country.

“It shows that we are considered one of the top teams in the country,” said head coach Beth Launiere. “It’s a reward for our team to be able to be in this position, to get the chance to play against other top teams in the country in the spring8212;it’s an experience valuable to our players’ development.”

Although playing in the sand is a lot different from playing on a gym floor, Launiere said beach volleyball improves indoor play on many different levels.

The difficulty of running and jumping in sand makes it great for conditioning, while ball control and reading skills on defense have to improve because it’s harder to move quickly in the sand. Increasing understanding of the game and improving mental toughness are also advantages to playing on the sand.

“There are just the two of you out there, sometimes without coaches, and the players have to figure out ways to win,” Launiere said. “Your weaknesses get exposed more easily, so mentally you’ve got to be able to handle the pressure of just you and another player.”

The Utes took advantage of some of last week’s nice weather and the weekend in Santa Barbara, Calif., to get in some playing time in the sand.

Although the team has only played in the sand four times, Launiere said her team has improved a lot during the course of a week and is ready for the tournament.

“I think we are as prepared as we can be and they’ve gotten a ton better in a week,” she said. “We’ll go compete8212;it’s not life or death8212;but we’ll go down there and compete and just have fun with it.”

The beach tournament is the last of three tournaments the Utes have played in the spring and marks the end of their spring season.

Despite having lost several games last weekend at the Santa Barbara tournament and some others at the Utah spring tournament, the Utes have made a lot of progress since they began practicing again in January.

“It’s been really great for the development of our team.” Launiere said. “We lost three seniors and we’ve had big role changes for everyone on the team and it’s taken all spring to adjust to that, this past weekend was good because we lost a lot and players stepped up and learned how much different their roles will be in the fall. You don’t learn that if you just go beat teams all the time.”

The Utes will be competing in the beach tournament all day Saturday as they face top programs such as Hawaii, San Diego, Texas, Nebraska, North Carolina, Southern California and host school UC-Riverside.

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Tyler Cobb

Coach Beth Launiere and the Utah volleyball team are heading to Riverside, Calif. to compete in the fourth annual Collegiate Beach Volleyball Championship.