Volleyball?s experience will lead them to victory

By Paige Fieldsted

The Utah women’s volleyball team has everything going for it: an experienced coach, returning players and an exciting start of the season.

All of those things give the Utes the edge they need to repeat as Mountain West Conference champions.

Last year, the volleyball team went 26-4 en route to an appearance in the Sweet 16, one of its most successful seasons in the program’s history.
This year’s squad is talented enough to repeat that success, at least as far as the MWC is concerned.

Despite having lost the talent and leadership of Lori Baird, Emillie Toone and Kathryn Haynie, the Utes have already started this season out on the right foot.
The Utes went 4-0, including winning the Utah Classic, and didn’t suffer a loss until last weekend, at the hands of Utah Valley University and Washington State.

Even without the seniors from last year returning, the Utes have enough firepower coming back this year to give Utah a chance to compete for the MWC regular season title.
Karolina Bartkowiak returns after being named to the all-conference team last season and has already proven she’s ready to step up, earning two double-doubles in the first two games this season.

Bartkowiak has become a big influence on the back row for the Utes and runs a slide that is almost impossible to defend.

Also returning is middle blocker Chelsey Sandberg, who has the one of the highest hitting percentages in the conference and is leading the team in service aces. Cinthia Silva returns on the outside and can only get better from the hard hits she put down last season, her first at Division I.

Along with those three, sophomore Sarah Hibbert has stepped up and is showing she can contribute to the Utes’ offense this season, giving the Utes even more power on the outside.

Returning to lead offense are setters Stephanie Neeley (formerly Shardlow) and Abby Simmons, who run the Utes’ offense from the back row in the 6-2 rotation, which gives the Utes three attackers at all times.

Libero and Keisha Fisher are also back and will continue to solidify the defense as they sprawl, sprint and roll across the court to get balls up for the team.

Another thing the volleyball team has in its favor is head coach Beth Launiere, who is in her 20th season as coach. Launiere leads the Utah team with an iron fist, demanding nothing less than perfection from her team, all while earning the respect and friendship of the players she coaches.

With Launiere at the helm of the volleyball team, the Utes have as good as chance as ever of becoming the MWC champions.

If the Ute players learned one thing last season, it was how to win, something that can take time for teams to learn.
[email protected]
chronicle.utah.edu

Volleyball team ready to repeat as conference Champions
This year is the one for women’s volleyball
Lady Ute’s Stepping up their game in volleyball