No. 17 Utah Volleyball Heads to Provo for NCAA Tournament

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No. 17 Utah Volleyball Heads to Provo for NCAA Tournament

The University of Utah Volleyball team plays against Arizona State University in the Huntsman Center, University of Utah Campus, Salt Lake City, UT on Friday, November 1st, 2019. (Photo by Mark Draper | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

The University of Utah Volleyball team plays against Arizona State University in the Huntsman Center, University of Utah Campus, Salt Lake City, UT on Friday, November 1st, 2019. (Photo by Mark Draper | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

The University of Utah Volleyball team plays against Arizona State University in the Huntsman Center, University of Utah Campus, Salt Lake City, UT on Friday, November 1st, 2019. (Photo by Mark Draper | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

The University of Utah Volleyball team plays against Arizona State University in the Huntsman Center, University of Utah Campus, Salt Lake City, UT on Friday, November 1st, 2019. (Photo by Mark Draper | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Mallory Arnold, Sports Writer

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The No. 17 University of Utah volleyball team is dancing their way into the NCAA postseason for their fourth straight year this weekend. Utah will head down south to Provo for the first and second round of the tournament. This is the third time in four years and the second season in a row where Utah has gone to Provo for the first two rounds. It’s a one-and-done deal in the volleyball postseason, so the Utes’ first game against the unranked Illinois team is a must win. The Utes are 22-9, 14-6 Pac-12.

For the winner-takes-all game, the Utes will play at 4 p.m. in the Smith Fieldhouse, a place they are no stranger to, while BYU will take on the WAC tournament winner New Mexico State later on in the night at 7 p.m.

NCAA.com is calling the matchup between Illinois and Utah one of the biggest match ups in the first round. The two teams have only ever faced five times, but the most recent was in 2002, where the Utes won in four sets. Illinois is 16-3, 11-9 Big Ten where they placed seventh in their conference. The Utes have a .700 winning percentage on the season while the Illini have .552. The Illini faced two Pac-12 opponents, Washington and Colorado, very early in the season and lost to both. That’s good news for the Utes, as they have been able to beat both teams this season.

Head Coach Beth Launiere knows a thing or two about Illinois, as she went there for her master’s in sports administration and was an assistant coach before coming to Utah. While Launiere was there from 1988-89, the team went 57-12, made two NCAA tournaments and even included a final four showing. 

Last week, Utah played the Oregon State Beavers and Colorado Buffs, and the team got things done in a proficient manner and swept both opponents in three sets. The Utah team is hot right now, and will hopefully be able to take on some tough opponents. Other teams from the Pac-12 that made the tourney are Stanford, as they won the conference, Washington, Washington State, UCLA and USC. The Utes made program history where they finished third in the Pac-12 and tabbed 14 conference wins, which was the best finish ever recorded.

If Utah and BYU both win their first games, the second round will be a rematch the Utes have been waiting for. The team played the Cougars much earlier in the season and lost in four sets. This is a perfect time for a second go. The second round game will begin on Dec. 7 at 7 p.m.

It was also announced Tuesday morning that Beth Launiere was named the Pac-12 coach of the year. This is the first time she has earned this honor since joining the conference. Freshman phenom Zoe Weatherington was named to the Pac-12 All Freshman team on Tuesday as well. Berkeley Oblad and Saige Ka’aha’aina-Torres were named honorable mention for the All-Pac-12 Team. Rounding out the conference honors was Dani Drews and Kenzie Koerber, who earned spots on the All-Pac-12 Team.

You can purchase tickets for the game here.

 

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@mallory_kae