Volleyball: No. 22 Utah Headed to Hawaii

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Volleyball: No. 22 Utah Headed to Hawaii

Dani Barton (1) jumps in an attempt to hit the ball during the Utah Women's Volleyball Red vs. White Scrimmage at the U Hunstman Center in Salt Lake City, Utah on Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017. (Dr. Rishi Deka  | Daily Utah Chronicle)

Dani Barton (1) jumps in an attempt to hit the ball during the Utah Women's Volleyball Red vs. White Scrimmage at the U Hunstman Center in Salt Lake City, Utah on Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017. (Dr. Rishi Deka | Daily Utah Chronicle)

Dani Barton (1) jumps in an attempt to hit the ball during the Utah Women's Volleyball Red vs. White Scrimmage at the U Hunstman Center in Salt Lake City, Utah on Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017. (Dr. Rishi Deka | Daily Utah Chronicle)

Dani Barton (1) jumps in an attempt to hit the ball during the Utah Women's Volleyball Red vs. White Scrimmage at the U Hunstman Center in Salt Lake City, Utah on Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017. (Dr. Rishi Deka | Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Carra McManamon

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The No. 22 ranked University of Utah Volleyball (2-1) team is heading to Hawaii to play in the Hawaiian Airlines Rainbow Wahine Classic for matches on Thursday, Friday and Sunday. Head coach Beth Launiere is looking forward to is her team being able to play in the volleyball arena and the atmosphere the team will experiencing together.

“The Stan Sheriff is one of the most storied places to play in all of collegiate volleyball,” Launiere said. “To get to go there and have a couple of matches, but then to play the University of Hawaii at Hawaii is really a special thing. I think it’s going to be really special for our Hawaiian athletes.”

The Utes open the tournament on Thursday, Aug. 31st with a game against South Dakota at 8:45 p.m. MT. They play again on Friday, Sept. 1st against Western Carolina at 8:45 p.m. MT. They’ll wrap up the weekend action on Sunday, Sept. 3rd against Hawaii at 8 p.m. MT.

South Dakota comes into the tournament with a 1-2 record. They played in the Rumble in the Rockies tournament this past weekend, losing their first match against Wyoming. They were swept by Portland before winning 3-0 against Abilene Christian.

Western Carolina also is coming into the tournament with a 1-2 record. The team won its first match against Charleston Southern but lost to Towson and Jacksonville State on the final day of the tournament.

The host of the tournament, Hawaii, has an 0-3 record after losing to Marquette, San Diego, and UCLA last weekend in the Texaco Rainbow Wahine Invitational.

While the Utes are still tweaking their lineup for matches and making other adjustments the team sees fit, Launiere doesn’t want her team to get relaxed about non-league play. She wants her team to be focused in these tournaments even if everything isn’t set in stone yet.

“They’re critical [nonconference games] in getting ready for the Pac-12 and that’s why you try and schedule as tough as you can and try to get some good wins,” Launiere said. “But, they count, you know. They count towards your RPI. They’re really important for our end of the year goals.”

Freshman middle blocker Phoebe Grace, sophomore setter Bailey Choy and senior outside hitter Adora Anae, all call the beautiful state of Hawaii home. For Anae, this experience is something she’s been looking forward to for a while.

“It’s where I grew up, it’s where I was raised,” Anae said. “I had club volleyball at UH [University of Hawaii], practiced in the facilities all throughout my club career. I’m looking forward to going back and reminiscing on those old days. Being in a different level is gonna be different as well. Playing in the Stan Sherriff has always been my dream.”

Anae will finally get to see her dream come true of playing in that venue with her family, friends, high school teammates and coaches in attendance – many who haven’t gotten to see her play in person during her collegiate career.

“It’s once in a lifetime,” Anae said. “I’ve been training here for almost four years and to be able to go home and play in front of my home base is just awesome. I don’t even know how to explain it. It’s going to be crazy. I’m so excited. I’ve been thinking about it all week.”

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