Volleyball heading to Cali for last preseason tourney

By By Bubba Brown

By Bubba Brown

Fresh off a five-set victory over in-state rival Utah State, the Ute volleyball team heads west to play in the Santa Clara Invitational, its last preseason tournament.

Tonight the Utes will line up against No. 25 Arizona in a rematch of the 2005 NCAA Tournament’s second round, which saw the Wildcats defeat the Utes in four sets.

“We’re going to see a lot of good athletes,” said head coach Beth Launiere about the Arizona squad.

Arizona has yet to lose this season and has only dropped two sets on the year. Among the teams Arizona has beaten this year are Louisville and Pittsburgh, two teams from the Big East Conference that have combined for nine wins this season. Last weekend, Arizona won their Wildcat Tournament, besting Nevada and Houston in consecutive sets and finished the tournament by beating Eastern Washington 3-1.

Offensively, the Wildacts are led by junior outside hitter Tiffany Owens, who has collected 70 kills on the year and is averaging 3.5 kills per set. The 2008 Pac-10 honorable mention hit at a .319 clip.

Sophomore outside hitter Dana Hutchinson has also been an offensive force for the Wildcats while averaging three kills per set for a .324 hitting percentage. Defensively, senior middle blocker Jacy Norton has paced the team with 25 blocks on the year and is averaging more than a block per set.

The Wildcats lead the all-time series between the two teams 16-4.
After Arizona, Utah will square off against host Santa Clara on Saturday. The Broncos started the season with back-to-back losses against UCLA and Hawaii in the Hawaii Invitational, but have since regrouped and rattled off four consecutive wins to improve to 4-2 on the young season. Among the teams Santa Clara has beaten is UC-Riverside, who the Utes swept in the second match of the season. Averaging 3.65 kills per set for the Broncos, junior outside hitter Krista Kelley has established herself as Santa Clara’s primary offensive threat.

The Brighton High School graduate has totaled 73 kills on the year and has a .287 hitting percentage. Katherine Douglas has the second-most kills on the team with 60; the freshman outside hitter has also knocked down 16 blocks. Defensively, the Broncos have three players with more than 20 blocks: freshman middle blocker Dana Knudsen with a team-leading 28, sophomore middle blocker Tanya Schmidt with 26 and senior outside hitter Lindsy Davigeadono with 23.

Utah and Santa Clara have met seven times in the past, with the Utes taking four of those matches. The last time the two squads faced off was last season at the Ute Invitational, in which the Utes defeated the Broncos in five sets.
Launiere says it will be a tough weekend for her Utes.

“Both of the programs we face have a lot of tradition,” Launiere said. “We’ve played both teams in the past. It’s going to be a couple of good matches.”