Volleyball: No. 16 Utah Hosts No. 25 Colorado, Cal to Open Conference Action


Jose Rems

University of Utah Girls Volleyball Camryn Machado(6) sets Tawnee Luafalemana (20) for the spike against BYU at the Hunstman center in Salt Lake City, UT on Thursday,Sept.14, 2017 (Photo by Jose Remes/ Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Carra McManamon

The nonconference schedule has come to a close for the No. 16 University of Utah volleyball team (9-2) whose two losses came against two top 15 teams. The Utes, who were picked to finish fourth in the Pac-12 conference, will open Pac-12 play with a four-game home stand that begins this weekend against No. 25 Colorado on Friday, Sept. 22 at 7 p.m. MT and California on Sunday, Sept. 24 at 2 p.m. MT.

While nonconference games are in no means matches to overlook, Utah understands the importance of conference play and what type of competition it will face, especially with five other Pac-12 teams ranked in the top 25.

“You don’t know how to explain it except the players know its Pac-12 time, it’s go time,” said head coach Beth Launiere. “Our conference won over 80 percent of their preseason matches … and it was our highest winning percentage of the whole conference in three years. That’s going to bode well for us at the end of the year when we start talking RPI’s. The conference is very, very strong this year from top to bottom.”

Utah’s first test of the weekend will be facing a Buffaloes team that holds a 10-1 record, with their only loss of the season coming against then ranked No. 3 Penn State. The Bears own a 9-3 overall record, and they are 0-1 in conference play. Cal dropped matches to UC Irvine, Pacific and Stanford.

The Utes have a strong offense that is high tempo, and has proven it can be efficient and rack up kills. Adora Anae, who leads the team with 153 kills and 95 digs, didn’t play against Utah Valley this past week, and she will be a game time decision for Utah against Colorado. Other Utes paving the way are Bailey Choy with 430 assists, Tawnee Luafalemana leads the team with a .398 hitting percentage and 53 blocks, while Kristen Abels has seven service aces.

A hitting percentage of.302 is the 10th best in the country and it belongs to Utah. But on the flip side, the Utes defense hasn’t had as much success as the offense. The defense is what hurt them in nonconference action. The two losses on their year were decided in five sets, where the Utes fell 3-2 in both. It’s the point scoring situations where the Utes will look to improve on in order to contend this year. They know wins won’t fall into their lap, and that they must work for each victory, on and off the court.

“It’s not for the faint of heart, it’s not easy,” Launiere said. “I think this is the time it starts getting tough, you know. We don’t make them run sprints until they puke or something, right? That’s what people think being tough is, it’s not. It’s the daily grind, and it’s the nightly and daily preparation to try to be good for two back-to-back matches on a weekend.”

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