Number 16 Utes Look to Continue Hot Start to Season at Pepperdine Classic


(Photo by Kiffer Creveling | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Adam Cochran, Sports Writer

Big Test at Pepperdine Classic

The University of Utah volleyball team looks to improve on their 7-0 record as they head to Malibu, California to participate in the Pepperdine Asics Classic. Utah will play Pepperdine on Friday, followed by two games on Saturday against Pittsburgh and Cal Poly.

This tournament will prove a big test for the Utes as they will face the No. Six ranked Pittsburgh Panthers on Saturday. Pittsburgh enters the tournament unbeaten after beating No. 10 Oregon in a heavyweight Wednesday evening. Pittsburgh entered the season as the favorite to win the Atlantic Coast Conference.

This will not be the first time that the Utes will face a higher ranked opponent, doing so on two occasions this season. They swept the then-ranked No. 7 Kentucky Wildcats during the Utah Classic, the tournament that opened the season for the Utes. Later in the same tournament, the Utes beat No. 23 ranked Cal Poly, who they will play again this weekend at the Pepperdine Classic.

Cal Poly gave Utah their toughest match of the season thus far, as they are the only team to win a set against Utah. Utah won the match three sets to two. Even Pepperdine, who sits 3-3 on the season, could provide a challenge for the Utes. The Waves came into the season well regarded around the country.


Utah’s Domination

The Utes have dominated in their first seven games, only losing two out of the 23 sets that they have played. The Pepperdine Asics Classic follows a master class performance at the Wolverine Classic in Orem. The Utes are off to a great start this season — the best since 2014, when they began the year with 10 straight wins, a mark they look to match at the tough tournament this weekend.

The Utes have four players averaging at least two kills per set played — Dani Drews, Kenzie Koerber, Berkeley Oblad and Zoe Weatherington. Drews leads the team with 98 kills, followed by Kenzie Koerber’s 86. Both were honored at the Wolverine Classic this past weekend for their performances. Drews was announced as tournament MVP and Koerber was honored on the all-tournament team. Saige Ka’aha’aina-Torres was also honored on the all-tournament team at the Wolverine classic and has been excellent at setting teammates up this season, racking up 264 assists for an average of 11.48 per set.

The Utah defense has also been outstanding this season, averaging 3.3 blocks per set, a figure good enough to lead the Pac-12. They have also been averaging 14.1 digs per set. This defense could prove indispensable as the Utes look to pull an upset and beat two other talented teams. This weekend should be a great test for Utah, and by the end of the tournament it should be clear exactly how good this team can be.


Game Times

The match against Pepperdine is set to begin at 1 p.m. on Friday, September 13. The first match on Saturday, September 14 against Pittsburgh will begin at 11 a.m. The final match of the weekend against Cal Poly will begin on Saturday at 6 p.m.


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