Utah Volleyball’s Successful yet Turbulent Season Ends in Disappointment


Tom Denton

Volleyball team after the game against Colorado on March 21, 2021 at the Jon M. Huntsman Center on campus. (Photo by Tom Denton | Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Ethan Pearce, Assistant Sports Editor


The University of Utah volleyball team’s season ended at the hands of Pittsburgh in the NCAA Tournament, but it was still a successful season for coach Beth Launiere and her squad. The Utes finished at third in the Pac-12 during the regular season, with a record of 13-4 in the postponed and shortened season. 

Utah did not lose a game until February 25 this season after starting 8-0. Their only losses were twice to the Washington Huskies, and once each to the Colorado Buffaloes and the UCLA Bruins. Utah only played against Pac-12 competition in the regular season this year and only had 18 games total. They are certainly hoping for a return to normality for next year. 

Volleyball usually starts its season around the beginning of the school year in early September or late August. They did not start until January this past year, which means the offseason will be particularly short this time around if the university wants to get them back on track. A shorter offseason means less time to prepare for everyone, but Utah will likely benefit from this given the multitude of veterans on the team.

Pac-12 Player of the Year Dani Drews is expected to return for a fifth season next year. The NCAA granted an extra year of eligibility to all winter athletes, so the senior will have a chance to run it back and play a final season for Launiere. Juniors Saige Ka’aha’aina-Torres and Madelyn Robinson, both honorable mentions for the All-Pac-12 team, are also expected back and will allow the Utes another crack at this thing. This is a great roster, and a full season with some stability and normality should go a long way towards helping them improve.

The Utes were swept out of the NCAA Tournament by Pitt last week. The Panthers had not lost a match in 13 tries going into their matchup with Utah. The Utes had not played a match in over two weeks, as their final weekend of the regular season was canceled. Pitt played like a dominant team, not only beating the 14 seeded Utes but also upsetting the 3 seed Minnesota Golden Gophers before finally losing to 6 seeded Washington in five sets, falling just shy of the Final Four.

The Utes have nothing to be ashamed about, having lost to an underseeded Cinderella who continued their run afterward. Losing their first tournament game hurts, but there is full confidence that this roster will be back with a vengeance next season, ready to make another run to the NCAA Tournament.


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