Team?s blocks bring success

By By Bubba Brown

By Bubba Brown

Launiere earns 400th

With Friday’s 3-2 victory over BYU, Beth Launiere wrapped up her 400th career victory as head coach of the Utes.

After the match, Launiere gave credit to the Cougars, who nearly denied her the milestone win, saying, “BYU certainly made me earn it.”

During the course of her 20 years at the helm of Utah volleyball, Launiere has compiled a record of 400-217. She took the reins in 1990 when the program was coming off a year that had recorded only one victory. Within three years, Launiere had guided the program to a winning season at 18-15. Since then, the Utes have won six Mountain West Conference titles and appeared in the NCAA Tournament 10 times.

Launiere feels the program has maintained stability during her tenure.

“I’ve been fortunate to have consistency over time once we were able to build our program,” Launiere said.

Launiere also spoke of the opportunity to record her 400th win at Crimson Court.
“We’ve had a lot of highs here,” she said. “We’ve had a lot of huge wins here at Crimson Court.”

Blocking big during streak

This year, Launiere has stressed the importance of blocking, something she feels her team has struggled with at times this season. In each of the matches the Utes have lost, they have failed to outblock their opponents. However, they have recorded double-digit blocks in each match during the Utes’ three-match winning streak, including a season-high of 15.5 against BYU. Sophomore middle blocker Danielle Killpack has collected a team high of 10.5 blocks over the last three matches, and senior middle blocker Chelsey Sandberg is second with eight.

Launiere said blocking is an integral part of success.

“I think (blocking is) a real emotional lift,” she said. “It’s an emotional thing when you block somebody. You have to get blocks or else they start swinging with no fear.”

Bartkowiak earns weekly honor

Junior opposite hitter Karolina Bartkowiak was named the Mountain West Conference Co-Player of the Week on Monday. It is the second time this season that Bartkowiak has earned the award. Bartkowiak collected a career high of 22 kills and 17 digs on Friday to lead the Utes to the win. She did her damage on 39 swings with only nine errors for a .333 hitting percentage.

Launiere said the award is well-earned.

“Karolina absolutely deserves this award,” Launiere said. “She put the team on her back during Friday’s match. She played the best match of her career, so she definitely earned the honor.”

Her 22-kill performance is the third-highest total in the conference in the first two weeks of league play. After three conference matches, Bartkowiak stands second in the conference in kills per set with 3.73, and is fifth in hitting percentage at .342.

We’re going streaking…through the conference

With three consecutive victories to start conference play, the Utes have now won 17 straight MWC matches. The last time the Utes lost to a conference opponent was Sept. 18, 2008 against Wyoming. The Utes will put their streak on the line Thursday when they travel to UNLV to face the Rebels.

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