30 Years of Beth


University of Utah head coach Beth Launiere talks with the Utes during a timeout in an NCAA Volleyball match vs. the UCLA Bruins at the Jon M. Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City, Utah on Friday, Sept. 21, 2018. (Photo by Kiffer Creveling | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Mallory Arnold, Sports Writer


Beth Launiere has led the University of Utah volleyball program into her 30th season coaching. She has a total of 261 conference wins, 564 career victories and an all-time winning percentage of .606. All of these rank first among Utah volleyball’s coaching records. She has recorded 17 20-win seasons and has led teams that won six Mountain West Conference titles (regular season and tournament combined) in addition to qualifying for the NCAA tournament 15 times. 

“Going into my 30th season feels bizarre, it’s unbelievable. I think about every team as an individual goal. I take a group of individuals and try to form them into a team,” Launiere said. “When I think about the program and what it was like 30 years ago, it doesn’t look anything like it is now. I’m very proud of what we’ve been able to build, in conjunction with the administration and the alumni. There is so much pride.”

Before coming to the U, she graduated in 1985 from Aquinas College in Michigan, where she played volleyball and majored in business administration and economics. She then received a masters in sports administration from the University of Illinois. She was an assistant coach at Illinois from 1988-89. She then held the same position at Ferris State College in Michigan, a Division II school, from 1985-87. While coaching at both schools, they made appearances at the Final Four. She first came to the U in 1990 when the team won only one match in 1989. Just three years later, in 1992, she recorded Utah’s first winning season in seven years (18-15). 

“It was the perfect situation for me as a young coach and I had great support from my administration. They wanted to bring someone young in and there wasn’t very much money in the program, they knew it was going to take some time,” Launiere said. 

University of Utah Head Coach Beth Launiere gives a thumbs up after a play in an NCAA Volleyball match vs. the UCLA Bruins at the Jon M. Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City, Utah on Friday, Sept. 21, 2018. (Photo by Kiffer Creveling | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

In her first year, there was a roster of only nine players. There were some good players before Beth arrived, and she explained that there just wasn’t a lot of discipline or expectations. The team was hungry for coaching, which is exactly what she gave them.

She got her 100th career win against Utah State in 1996. Although they weren’t able to turn things around right away, the Utes made the NCAA tournament in 1998, where they made it to the second round before being beat out by Nebraska, who ended up winning the tournament. She also won the Don Reddish Coach of the Year award that year, and has done so four more times since. 

“I knew what the program was when I came here, and luckily the administration really wanted to do great things and wanted to build it. It was a lot of hard work early on and it took some time but we wanted to do it right.” 

On Sept. 18th, 2000, after defeating No. 1 Stanford, Launiere led Utah to its first national ranking, coming in at No. 18 on the AVCA top 25 poll. In 2000, she was able to gain her 200th career win against UNLV. The next year, she earned her first AVCA West Region Coach of the Year and the Utes made it to the NCAA Tournament Regional Semifinals. Utah earned its highest ranking in school history on Sept. 2, 2002, when it was ranked eighth. The Utes also won the Mountain West Conference tournament in both 2001 and 2002. Under Launiere, Kim Turner was named the 2002 and 2003 MWC Player of the Year.

The Utes then made the NCAA tournament from 1998-2006, which was also a monumental year for the coach as Utah became the first school in the Mountain West Conference to win 16 matches in conference play, and the second to go undefeated. That same year, the Utes won a school-record 28 matches in a season, including another school-record 25 straight and went undefeated for the second time in school history on crimson court. (The first was in 2001, also under Launiere.) They also, of course, won the MWC regular season title. Launiere took home the title of Mountain West Coach of the year and the AVCA West Region Coach of the Year in 2006 for the second time in her career. 

“I’ve had some other opportunities but I’ve declined them because I just love the University of Utah, the volleyball program, the athletic department and Salt Lake,” she said. 

When 2008 came around, it was another impressive year for the Utes as they tallied 26 wins and only six losses. They also made it to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament before losing to Washington. That year, they also won the regular season title in the MWC, their sixth overall. Lori Baird was the MWC Player of the Year, and Launiere earned the third MWC Coach of the Year honor of her career. Her 400th career win came shortly after in the 2009 season against BYU on Sept. 25th. 

In 2011, when the Utes joined the Pac-12, there was a big change for the team as they moved out of the Crimson Court and into the Jon M. Huntsman Arena. The first season in the Pac-12, they placed ninth, but have been slowly moving up ever since. The 2011 freshman class was also ranked 20th in the nation by prepvolleyball.com. This transition also gave the team much bigger opponents like USC, UCLA and Stanford. 

Launeire explained that she’s really narrowed her program down to three things: “One is that we’re going to work as hard as we can at the highest level of our potential. Two, have my players learn lifelong lessons to the pursuit of those goals, and three is just to have a team that loves, trusts and respects each other.” 

In 2014, she started implementing those core values and that’s when it started to show in the Pac-12. The Utes went 20-13 in 2014, which included a school-record six victories over top 25-ranked teams. The year before, in 2013, the Utes went 20-12 in the regular season, but gained nine wins in Pac-12 play. Both years, the team was able to make it to the NCAA tournament. 2015 was a rebuilding season for the young Utes, but Coach Launeire was able to nab her 500th career win against Oregon State. 

“I have a saying that I think we can out-team anybody. I believe that in the core of my body that we act as a team.” 

After going 20-12 in the 2016 season and placing fifth in the Pac-12, Launiere guided Utah to its 13th NCAA tournament. This same year, Utah had a program best at 11 wins in the Pac-12 conference. Following up in 2017, the Utes went 24-10 overall and made yet another appearance at the NCAA tournament, finishing fourth in the Pac-12. Last year, in 2018, the Utes lost some great players, but underclassmen Dani Drews and Kenzie Koerber were able to step up for the Utes as the team placed seventh in the Pac-12, going 10-10 in the conference. They were able to make the NCAA tournament again, made it to the second round and went on a hot streak while winning six of their last eight games. 

The 2019 season has started off strong for the Utes and Launiere as they are currently 10-4, 2-1 Pac-12 play. They started off the year going 8-0 before losing to the No. 6 ranked Pittsburgh. The team has stayed ranked in the top 25 all season and currently sits at No. 20.

Utah Volleyball Head Coach, Beth Launiere, talks to Utah sophomore, Adora Anae (14), before the beginning of the fourth game at the Huntsman Events Center; The Utah Utes beat the Colorado Buffs 3-1 on Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2015

“I stay coaching because there is nothing like helping young people learn about themselves and develop through the course of their career. My goal is for them to be able to go out stronger people and just have happy and successful lives.”

A memory that stuck out to Launiere was in 2001 when the Utes beat Utah State in the Crimson Court to advance to the Sweet 16 for the first time ever. “I’ll never forget there was probably 50 alumni here and I walked out after that match to see how proud they were of the program,” she explained with tears in her eyes. “That was a really big moment for me.”

In honor of Beth’s 30th year at the University of Utah, the school held a celebration in the Jon M. Huntsman Arena on Oct. 11 vs UCLA. Here’s to 30 years of Beth!


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