Utah not slowing down for Cal

By By Bubba Brown and By Bubba Brown

By Bubba Brown

After winning the Utah Classic in its season-opening weekend, the Ute volleyball team will look to keep rolling as it faces Cal Poly on Crimson Court tonight at 7 p.m.
Cal Poly enters the contest 0-3, after being swept at the Asics Classic.
The Mustangs opened their season with a four-set loss to Oregon State, despite a strong performance from freshman Molly Pon, who notched 12 kills in her collegiate debut. The Mustangs were then swept by Pepperdine 25-15, 25-23, and 25-18. They wrapped up the Asics Classic with a three-set loss to tournament host and No. 24 Colorado State.
Despite the Mustangs’ winless record, they were listed in the receiving votes section in both the Volleyball Magazine Preseason Poll and the AVCA Preseason Coaches Poll. They were picked to finish No. 3 in the Big West Preseason Coaches Poll.
“They are athletic, but very young,” U head coach Beth Launiere said. “We have to get on top early and not let them get confident.”
The Mustangs are led by junior middle blocker Dominique Olowolafe, a 2008 All-Big West selection. Olowolafe posted 22 kills and a .360 hitting percentage. She finished No. 5 in the Big West with a .305 hitting percentage, in addition to ranking No. 63 in the nation in blocking average.
Cementing themselves as a Division-I contender, Cal Poly reeled in a recruiting class ranked No. 9 in the country by www.prepvolleyball.com. The class includes six freshmen who could make an impact this season, including Pon, who debuted with a solid three-game performance in the Asics Classic.
Last season, the Mustangs finished 16-13 en route to a third-place finish in the Big West Conference.
“They are a good team,” said U junior opposite hitter Karolina Bartkowiak. “They come from a good conference. They areyoung, but it’s going to be a good battle.”
Utah enters the match riding a three-game winning streak to open the season. The Utes opened the 2009 season and the Utah Classic with a sweep of Arizona State on Friday night, and then quickly dispatched UC-Riverside in three sets the following morning. They concluded the Utah Classic with a five-set thriller against defending Big East champion Cincinnati.
The Utes had a quick turnaround between the Utah Classic and the Cal Poly contest, with only two days between games, but found time to work on key issues.
“We worked on serving and passing, but also blocking and defense,” Launiere said.
Bartkowiak earned the Utah Classic Most Valuable Player honors and was named the Mountain West Conference Player of the Week after leading the Utes to a 3-0 start last weekend. She tallied the first two double-doubles of her career in the three-match tournament, grabbing 11 kills and 10 digs in the victory over Cincinnati and 11 kills with 11 digs against Arizona State.
“This is a well-deserved award for Karolina,” Launiere said. “She was a dominant force for us through all three matches last weekend. She got a chance to play in the back row and really showed that she has an all-around game.”
Bartkowiak had a .333 hitting percentage for the tournament, to go along with her 2.91 kills per set.
Following the Cal Poly match, the Utes won’t get any time to rest as they will travel to Orem for the Utah Valley Invitational this weekend, where Utah Valley University will host Utah, Washington State and Missouri.