Volleyball preps for double-header

Volleyball+preps+for+double-header

— Preston Zubal

There are no easy matches in the Pac-12.

For the second straight weekend, Utah will face a pair of ranked opponents when it travels to southern California for showdowns against No. 17 UCLA and No. 20 USC.

At the end of their practice on Wednesday, Utah head coach Beth Launiere pulled her team together to make sure they knew the Bruins and Trojans are beatable.

“I like the makeup of our team, I like how we are playing right now,” Launiere said.

The Bruins offense is led by senior outside hitter Karsta Lowe. Lowe was named to the All-Pac-12 First Team and was an All-American Honorable Mention last season, and she is on pace for more postseason accolades as she comes into Friday’s match leading the country in kills per set at 6.11.

“She’s just unbelievable and so tough to stop,” Launiere said. “She hits so high and angles and physical, she’s a 6’4” lefty — that is a really special player.”

Utah’s Shelby Dalton and Adora Anae will get the tough job of trying to slow down Lowe.

UCLA went 1-1 last weekend as they picked up a four set victory against Washington State but lost to No. 3 Washington in five sets. The Bruins are  2-2 in the Pac-12 on the year.

UCLA leads the nation in kills per set at 14.43 and also holds the top spot in the country in assists per set with an average of 15.39.

The Utes and Bruins squared off only once last year with Utah earning a 3-1 road win at Pauley Pavillion. This time around the match will be played in Pepperdine’s Firestone Fieldhouse due to water damage to Pauley Pavilion and John Wooden Court that occurred July 29.

After the UCLA match, the Utes will have a 24-hour turnaround to get ready to face USC.

USC began the season ranked in the top-10, but after dropping three straight matches to open conference play, the Trojans have dropped in the polls.

“They have plenty of talent to get it together, they can turn it on at any given time,” Launiere said. “It’s not like they’re a weak team, they’ve just got some struggles, and when they figure it out they’re going to be very good.”

USC has one of the best servers in the country in Samantha Briscio, who at 42 aces is tops in the Pac-12.

“There are two servers in the country that absolutely can dictate a match, and she’s one of them,” Launiere said.

Utah will play UCLA Friday at 9 p.m. before heading to USC for a Saturday showdown with the Trojans at 8 p.m.

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@BenJasarevic