Middle blockers are more than just volleyball

Middle+blockers+are+more+than+just+volleyball

- Chris Samuels

What do an artist and knife collector have in common? They’re both middle blockers on Utah’s volleyball team — senior Bailey Bateman is the artist and redshirt freshman Carly Trueman is the knife collector.

Head coach Beth Launiere has molded Utah into one of the premiere blocking programs in the country. The Utes led the nation in 1993 and 2006 in blocks per set with 3.63 and 3.71, respectively.

Both Bateman and Trueman came into the program with knowledge of Utah’s middle blocker history. Out of Utah’s eight All-Americans, four have been middle blockers. Historically, middle blockers are 6-foot-3 and taller, and that includes the Utes’ four All-Americans, but Utah’s current duo are considered undersized with each standing at 6-foot-1.

Brian Doyon is Utah’s recruiting coordinator and works with middle blockers as Launiere’s assistant coach. Doyon says despite the duo’s size, they are great middle blockers because of their quickness on the court.

“The game is evolving, faster middles and sets that are off center,” Doyon said. “Having them be able to be athletic and able to hit a variety of shots is really big for us.”

With quicker offenses across women’s volleyball, Bateman and Trueman’s lateral quickness helps them get out to their pins quicker than big middle blockers to defend some of the country’s best offensive players.

“We felt like we had to get quicker in the Pac-12, and I don’t think we give up too much size with them. They’re both really fast,” Launiere said.

Bateman was an integral part to Utah’s 2012 blocking as she finished ninth in the country with 1.54 blocks per set, helping her team finish sixth among all NCAA teams in blocks per set with 3.00. That mark was also good enough to get her second place in the Pac-12.

“I just love blocking so much,” Bateman said. “I’m really passionate about it.”

Off the court, Bateman is an artist. She couldn’t major in art due to studio times interfering with volleyball practice, so Bateman decided to minor in drawing to go with her sociology major. Bateman can be seen leaving practice carrying her art bag.

“It’s amazing, she’s really good. She is always commenting on artistic things,” Launiere said about Bateman. “She’s definitely an artist.”

Bateman’s love for art can also be seen on her skin, with her Sweeney Todd tattoo on her right calf being the most visible. Bateman was getting stars tattooed on her forearms when she asked a different artist about getting a Jack Skellington tattoo from Tim Burton’s “Nightmare before Christmas.” The artist told her that he’s done multiple skeleton tattoos, and that he can do it.

“I don’t want something that everybody has, so I asked if he’d ever done Sweeney Todd,” Bateman said. “I said, ‘let’s do it,’ and three months later, I got it.”

Bateman’s counterpart Trueman isn’t an artist — she’s a daredevil.

“Carly is super entertaining, really outdoorsy, adventurous, she goes skydiving and she rides dirt bikes and motorcycles all the time.” Doyon said about Trueman. “She has an elaborate knife collection, but she’s a really cool kid.”

Launiere saw Trueman’s interest in knives for the first time when she went down to Tucson for an official in-home visit with Trueman and her family.

“I just got a knife in the mail when [Launiere] came to visit,” Trueman said. “It’s a Batman knife, it’s double-sided, and it’s really cool.”

Launiere said she doesn’t know much about the knives other than that one, but she won’t ask questions.

“I’m just happy she’s on my team,” Launiere said.

On the court, people know Bateman and Trueman as a duo to be reckoned with, but off of it, they have their own interests as an artist and a knife collector.

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@BenJasarevic