Returning players primed to win

By Bubba Brown, Staff Writer

Last year, several Utah teams acquainted themselves with the top of the Mountain West Conference. One year later, the Utes are primed to duplicate last season’s success.

In 2008, the Utes’ football team did great things. They went undefeated, won the Mountain West Conference, rolled the Tide, further sparked national debate about the merits of the BCS system, solved world hunger and united the country regarding a national health plan. Err, you get the point.

Right now, to say that this year’s team can repeat that success would clearly be jumping the gun, but that doesn’t mean this year’s team can’t accomplish amazing things. With many key components of last year’s stellar defense returning and several playmakers on the offense, including Matt Asiata and David Reed, the Utes are certainly capable of winning the Mountain West and competing for a bowl game.

Not wanting to feel left out, last year’s Runnin’ Utes basketball team tied for the regular season conference championship and won the postseason tournament en route to a No. 5 seed in the NCAA Tournament. They lost Luke Nevill, Shaun Green, Lawrence Bohra and Tyler Kepkay, but every other top team in the conference also lost several of their best players. BYU’s Lee Cummard, New Mexico’s Tony Danridge and Daniel Faris, San Diego State’s Lorenzo Wade, Kyle Spain and Richie Williams and UNLV’s Wink Adams and Rene Rougeau all graduated. Look for Carlon Brown, who has the ability to be the league’s premier playmaker, to lead the Utes to another strong season and an NCAA Tournament berth. With one March Madness win, the Runnin’ Utes can accomplish what last year’s team could not.

The women’s basketball team was even more dominant on the court than the men’s. The team went 23-10 while rolling to the conference title and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. All-American honorable mention Morgan Warburton is gone, but All-American candidate Kalee Whipple is ready to lead the Utes to another great season.

For the first time in 49 years, the Utah baseball team qualified for the NCAA tournament. After a mostly mediocre regular season, the Utes caught fire in the conference playoffs and won the Mountain West Conference Tournament. They then beat Gonzaga and Georgia Southern in the NCAA Regional before being knocked out by eventual College World Series participant Cal State Fullerton. The only impact players the Utes lost are starting pitcher Brian Budrow, who was drafted in the 28th round by the Arizona Diamondbacks, and infielder Corey Shimada. The team returns with Jordan Whatcott, who opted to return to Utah for his senior season after being drafted in the 31st round by the Angels; Nick Kuroczko, and freshman All-American C.J. Cron. With confidence and consistency gained during last year’s tournament run, the Utes are on their way to a full season of great baseball.

The volleyball team lost three all-conference players in Lori Baird, Kathryn Haynie and Emillie Toone after a season that saw the team win the conference and advance to the Sweet 16, but the preseason conference favorites and No. 17-ranked Utes, led by all-conference Karolina Bartkowiak, are poised to get back to the NCAA Tournament.
The gymnastics team finished third in the nation last season, but in true Red Rock tradition, the Utes will once again find themselves in the national title picture.

Sure, 2008 was fun, but 2009 promises to be just as successful, even if the football team doesn’t end the recession.

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