Utes setting the standard


Ben Jasarevic

Signal callers dictate the offensive side of the game in many sports. In football it’s the quarterback, in basketball it’s the point guard and in volleyball it’s the setter.

Volleyball has two different formations: A 5-1 formation that features only one setter that never leaves the match and a 6-2 formation where the setter is substituted out of the match when she gets to the front row.

In the 6-2 formation the team always has a setter in the back row and a right-side hitter on the front row.

Head coach Beth Launiere prefers the 6-2, if she has the personnel. With senior Kalee Kirby and junior Kendall Cygan as setters, Launiere has just that.

Even though they are never on the court at the same time, the two setters work together quite a bit.

“It’s an interesting system because they have to work together but aren’t ever on the same side of the net during practice,” Launiere said. “We bring them in together to talk about the hitters because one person might have a better idea on a hitter than the other setter. They’ll talk about hitters and what they need and how they need their sets and stuff like that, yet they never play together.”

With Utah’s spread-out attack, the ball can be set at three different positions at any time, so the setter has to know how each hitter wants the ball.

For example, Shelby Dalton wants the ball high so she can use her vertical jump to her advantage, while Chelsey Schofield-Olsen wants the ball set to her as quickly as possible to benefit her speed.

“We train all of our hitters to hit off of both setters,” Launiere said. “That way the hitters don’t have to worry about setting them.”

Placing the perfect set for their hitters isn’t the only challenge the setter position faces.

“Things are happening fast and they have to be able to make the correct decisions in a split second,” assistant coach JJ Riley said.

The setters primarily work with Riley, who was a Second Team All-American at Pepperdine as a setter in 1998 and helped Pepperdine reach the NCAA Championship game. He says setters get most of their information before the play even starts.

“It all happens when the play is dead, they have to take a look over to the other side of the net to see what the blockers look like and try to find the weakest blocker,” Riley said.

These challenges of making quick decisions and thinking on the spot are the reasons Cygan is a setter.

“I’ve played it my whole life,” Cygan said. “I like thinking about the strategies, where you have to set and where you have to put it.”

Waiting in the wings to replace Kirby and Cygan as setter is freshman Jessie Jorgensen. The freshman hasn’t played in any Pac-12 matches as she has been sidelined with an undisclosed injury for the majority of the season. Her absence hasn’t stopped her teammates and coaches from raving about the 2013 Utah Gatorade Player of the Year’s potential.

“Jessie’s going places in four years. It’s scary to see where she’ll be at in four years,” Kirby said.

With a lot of time spent watching from the sidelines Jorgensen says she’s learned a lot from Kirby and Cygan.

“Watching both of them has helped me to figure out the way our system is run,” Jorgensen said. “They’ve both chimed in at separate times to help me with my setting, they’ve been real good about helping me out.”

From helping out their understudy to quarterbacking their team, the two setters are getting ready to face No.1 Stanford.

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