Utes offer free beanies to bring in big crowds, switch around the lineup, set records


 — Jameson Clifton

Utah was back at the Huntsman Center on Friday and Sunday after spending the last two weekends on the road, where it went 0-4. The Utes seemed glad to be home, as they swept both of their matchups, first against No. 19 USC and then No. 15 UCLA on Sunday afternoon.
The first sweep against the Trojans came in front of almost 1,500 fans on blackout night.
So how did the Utes get so many fans to come to the match? They gave away black Utah beanies to the first 250 fans.
“I really think it’s the beanies,” said head coach Beth Launiere. “It is just nice to be home.”
In the match against UCLA, there were no beanies for the fans, but the Utes did come out in black jerseys for the second straight match after getting approval from Launiere. The performance was just as impressive against the Bruins as it was against the Trojans.
“The crowd helped us tremendously,” said senior Chelsey Schofield-Olsen. “Especially when they are serving, I know, for me, it gets in my head, and I can tell it was getting into their heads.”
With the two wins, Utah is now 4-2 at home in Pac-12 play with its other two wins coming against No. 17 Arizona State and a winless California team.
Anae’s New Position
Heading into last weekend, Launiere suggested there would be some lineup changes but didn’t specify what those changes would be. One change was moving Adora Anae to the back row. This meant she would be on the court for all six rotations instead of getting subbed out after three.
With Utah’s old system, Anae would come into the match for a setter while senior Shelby Dalton would come out for a setter, meaning that the Utes would always have either Anae or Dalton in the front row and one of their two setters in the back row. Now, freshman Eliza Katoa substitutes with Dalton while Anae replaced senior Makenzie Moea’i in the back row to play all six rotations.
The position change was a success, as Anae recorded 17 kills and 14 digs over the weekend.
“I really had total confidence in her. She had a good week of practice; she’s been working hard at passing all season long in anticipation of maybe having this chance,” Launiere said. “I thought she came out and did a great job.”
Anae is a fan of the position change.
“I really like the position. My favorite part of the game is defense because you have to be so active in the back,” Anae said. “Chelsey [Schofield-Olsen] and the rest of the back row helped me a lot.”
Milestone for Cygan
Junior setter Kendall Cygan finished Friday night’s match against the Trojans with 23 assists, bringing her career assist total to 1,696, just two short of Cheryl Tye, who ranks tenth on Utah’s career assists list.
Cygan added 16 more assists on Sunday to surpass Tye and enter Utah’s top 10.
“It’s insane being a junior and being in the top 10. I’m ready to keep going up. I know I can get to seventh this season, and by the end of my career hopefully I’m fifth or sixth,” Cygan said. “Credit to the passers, credit to the hitters, ‘cause they’re the ones that get me the kills.”
Cygan would need 84 more assists in the team’s final six matches to make seventh on the list.
“Kendall is a competitive kid, and she finds a way to get on the court and finds a way to win, and that’s why she’s in the position that she is in,” Launiere said.
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