Volleyball: Utes prepare to face tough season

Senior Morgan Odale serves during a game on Nov. 9 2012. // Erin Burns, File Photo.
Senior Morgan Odale serves during a game on Nov. 9 2012. // Erin Burns, File Photo.

It’s time for an anxious Utah volleyball team to hit the hardwood. After finishing the 2012 season 14-19, the group worked hard in the offseason and has kept a thirst to prove that they belong among the elite volleyball programs in the Pac-12.
“Expectations are high,” said Morgan Odale, one of only two seniors on the team, the other being Erin Redd-Brandon. They hope to make an impact in their last year, not only in the coming matchups, but on their team as well.
“I knew that this would happen someday,” said Odale about her final year. “It’s a lot of responsibility and a little bit of pressure at the same time being someone that [the team] could look up to and come to if they need help, because we’ve been in the program for a really long time, but it is good.”
The Utes have six underclassmen, including four freshmen who are expected to make immediate contributions to the team this year. Odale thinks very highly of her young teammates and knows they can handle the pressure of going up against the premier Pac-12 competition they will face this year.
“The freshmen are pretty good,” Odale said. “We have high expectations for them. They have done a really good job. They have stepped up and taken their place on the team.”
Head coach Beth Launiere said getting the season started off right will be key in carrying positive momentum throughout the season. Utah will open its season this weekend at the Utah Open, which will be played in the Huntsman Center.
“We’ve got to win in the preseason,” Launiere said. “You have to get enough wins to be eligible [for the postseason], and some of those wins are going to be significant to building your resume.”
To aid in building team camaraderie, the Utes recently held a retreat in Park City. There, they worked on problem solving during tense situations, handling conflicts and tightening the team bond.
“More than anything, this group is tight,” Launiere said. “There is good communication, and they know each other well. We put them in all kinds of game-type situations to help their problem solving. It was very powerful.”
Being familiar with one another will be particularly important once Pac-12 play opens, as the schedule will get much more difficult. Five teams from the conference are ranked among the top 15 teams, three of them in the top five.
“Expect a lot of really good things,” Odale said. “We will be going hard every single night, and we’re practicing like crazy. [We’re] excited for a ton of fans to come watch, and we are going to take out some of those teams.”