After making strides last season the Utah volleyball team will look to climb another rung up the Pac-12 ladder in 2014.
The volleyball team has reason for optimism, as they have improved their record each year since joining the conference in 2011.
“Our goals have been the same since we moved into the Pac-12, and that is to make progress and to keep moving up the standings,” said head coach Beth Launiere. “We were able to make a good jump this past year.”
The big jump Launiere speaks of was a total of six more wins than the previous year and a game shy of going .500 in Pac-12 play, as her team finished the regular season with a 21-13 overall record and a 9-11 Pac-12 record. The 20-12 regular season record plus an impressive win at UCLA in the season finale helped the Utes get into the 2013 NCAA Volleyball Tournament, where they won their opening round match against Yale before losing to eventual champions Penn State.
“Our other goal is to make the NCAA Tournament again,” Launiere said. “We know if we take care of business in the Pac-12 we will make the NCAA Tournament and then go as far as we can.”
The Utes will have six seniors on this season’s roster, the first class that will play all four of their seasons in the Pac-12.
“The key to this year is that we have so much senior experience,” Launiere said. “Chelsey Schofield has been starting since her freshman year and is a great all-around player, but, I mean, you could go down the line. Shelby Dalton, Bailey Bateman — there is a lot of experience on the team.”
For every senior on this team there is a freshman, and the new class is one of the most talented in the history of Utah volleyball.
“I think as seniors it is our job to make sure everybody knows what is going on,” Schofield said. “I think especially for the incoming freshman so they know our goals and what we are trying to do.”
Adora Anae, a 6-foot-1-inch passing outside hitter from Laie, Hawaii, heads the freshman class. She was ranked No. 79 on PrepVolleyball.com’s Senior Ace List. Anae isn’t the only freshman who was ranked coming out of high school. Also appearing on the Senior Ace List is local product Eliza Katoa, a 5-foot-10-inch outside hitter from Layton, Utah.
“It really is an impressive freshman class. They come in with a lot of accolades between them,” Launiere said.
One of the challenges for Utah will be replacing the production of Erin Redd-Brandon and Morgan Odale. Redd-Brandon was a Pac-12 All-Conference Honorable Mention and finished her career fourth in school history in total blocks with 574.
The team opens fall camp Aug. 8.
“We start with two-a-days for two weeks, and then slow down a little bit and work specifically on stuff we need to do for our first tournament,” Schofield said. “It’s a pretty quick turn-around.”
The Utes will open their season by hosting the Utah Classic on Aug. 29.