On Thursday, Sept. 14 in Salt Lake City, the No. 16 University of Utah women’s volleyball team (8-1) will host the team from down south, No. 14 BYU (8-1) at 7 p.m. MT at the Huntsman Center. Utah is coming off a 3-0 win that clinched it the Utah Volleyball Classic Championship to record its sixth sweep of the season, while BYU heads into the match having gone 2-1 in the Outrigger Resorts Volleyball Challenge this past weekend.
The Utes roster consists of two athletes from the state of Utah who both grew up familiar with the rivalry. One of those athletes is freshman Dani Barton who has played once against the Cougars, but not in the same atmosphere that is expected to be in full swing come Thursday night.
“It’s really exciting just cause I played them in the spring but that was just more of a scrimmage type of thing,” Barton said. “But I think it’s a really big deal for the first time [to] play BYU and I’m excited. I think it will be a really big game for us and I’m pretty confident.”
Last season when Utah and BYU met in Provo, the Utes earned the win in a 3-2 thriller against the then ranked No. 9 Cougars. Utah head coach Beth Launiere isn’t worried about the Cougars looking to get revenge this season. She is focused on her team as she believes not just Utah, but BYU will come out ready to compete.
“We’re two really good volleyball programs,” Launiere said. “And two really good teams that are going to go head to head Thursday night.”
This will be the 100th match between the two teams, and the Cougars lead the series 69-30. Although the Utes have home-court advantage this season, and Barton knows the importance of taking care of business on their court, she also realizes they can’t get ahead of themselves.
“I think it’s the same thing with any team we play,” Barton said. “You can’t underestimate anyone, and you have to go in just giving it your best and performing. Practice is over, training is over, it’s time to perform and battle.”
After the match against BYU, Utah will head down to Orem on Friday, Sept. 15 to take on the Utah Valley Wolverines (5-7). As the Utes close out nonconference play this week against two in-state teams before Pac-12 action gets underway, Launiere remains fixated on helping her team reach its potential.
“I think we’re continuing to learn a lot about our team, and I think there is still a lot to learn,” Launiere said. “I think we have to continue to find out things we got to get better at and we find out [how] things are holding up under pressure, there’s always things that we’re wanting and it’s just a continual process.”