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Go Utes!
2012 Utah Volleyball Preview: Setters, Defensive Specialists and Liberos

Senior setter McKenzie Odale will coordinate the Ute attack this fall.

Senior setter McKenzie Odale will coordinate the Ute attack this fall.

Aug. 16, 2012

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2012 Schedule

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With the first serve of the 2012 Utah volleyball season eight days away, utahutes.com offers a position-by-position breakdown of the Ute roster preps fans for the upcoming year as well as a look at the schedule for Utah's second season in the Pac-12 conference. This is the fourth in a five-part series about the student-athletes Utah has at each position heading into the season as well as the competition they will face.

Monday, Aug. 13: Right-side Hitters
Tuesday, Aug. 14: Outside Hitters
Wednesday, Aug. 15: Middle Blockers
Thursday, Aug. 16: Setters/Liberos and Defensive Specialists
Friday, Aug. 17: Schedule

Veterans Return in Setter and Defensive Roles for the Utes

Senior McKenzie Odale dished out a career single-season high 506 assists last season and returns for her final season as the team leader and the coordinator of the Utah offense.

"There's no question that this is a big year for McKenzie," Utah head coach Beth Launiere said. "This is a great opportunity for her. She took her role as the only senior and the leader of this team very seriously this spring. She learned a lot about leadership. She's grown and matured incredibly through her time here. She's ready to lead this team. I have no doubt about it."

 

 

Freshmen Gigi Cresto and Kendall Cygan will provide depth during their first season with the Utes.

The defensive spots in Utah's back row will be filled by junior Nikki Sim or sophomore Lea Adolph. Who exactly fills which position will be determined during fall camp.

"I opened the door for Nikki and Lea to compete this spring for the libero position and they competed hard," Launiere said. "It's open heading into fall camp and they're both really driven to play, whether it's in the libero position or the defensive specialist position."

Sim had 405 digs last season from her libero position in the Ute back row, good for the seventh-highest single-season total in school history. She was 10th in the Pac-12's statistics with 3.89 digs per set last season and 3.65 digs per set in league matches.

Adolph popped up a career-high 15 digs against Eastern Michigan last season. She made two starts at libero, against No. 3 Stanford and at Arizona. She helped fuel a memorable win at then-No. 16 Oregon by serving three consecutive aces in the fifth and decisive set during the win over the Ducks.

"Our defensive players gained a lot of experience, compared to a year ago. It was an area that we were very inexperienced in last season. Nikki and Lea both played a significant amount of time so we're going into this season much more experienced in that area."

Freshmen Amanda Wasko and Liz Mata will be counted on to provide depth behind Sim and Adolph.

Setter/Libero and Defensive Specialist Player Notes:

Lea Adolph

So. • DS/L • 5-6 • Waltrop, Germany • Pascalgymnasium
Gained a tremendous amount of experience and became more comfortable after playing a significant role as Utah's second defensive player in her first season as a Ute ... competed at the highest levels in German Junior Volleyball as a member of the junior national team ... a fiery competitor and talented player.


Gigi Cresto

Fr. • S • 6-0 • San Diego, Calif. • Torrey Pines H.S.
An exciting player coming off an ACL reconstruction, but going to be physically 100 percent to go this season ... an exciting player ... very athletic and has a great court demeanor ... a true leader on the court ... played for a top club team.

Kendall Cygan

Fr. • DS • 5-8 • Orange, Calif. • Santa Margarita Catholic H.S.

An interesting player with an exciting game ... a nice setter and good defensive player ... has a lot of intangibles: scrappy, competitive and a good leader ... expected to add a lot of value to the defensive specialist position.

Liz Mata

Fr. • DS • 5-8 • Tucson, Ariz. • Flowing Wells H.S.

Dished out 1,204 career assists during her four-year prep career ... also had 184 career digs, 173 service aces, 55 kills and 45 blocks ... served as team captain during her final two seasons ... second-team all-city selection in 2010 and 2011 ... named team MVP for 2011 season after turning in 308 assists, 52 aces, 50 digs, 25 kills and 17 blocks

McKenzie Odale

Sr. • S • 5-11 • Star, Idaho • Eagle H.S.

An interesting player with an exciting game ... a nice setter and good defensive player ... has a lot of intangibles: scrappy, competitive and a good leader ... expected to add a lot of value to the defensive specialist position.

Nikki Sim

Jr. • DS/L • 5-7 • Salt Lake City, Utah • Juan Diego H.S.

Stepped up this spring when she had the opportunity to be Utah's No. 1 defensive player ... surprises coaching staff every day in practice ... has a good feel for the game ... good passer who is very quick on the court ... reads the defense well ... has been working hard at gaining strength.

Amanda Wasko

Fr. • DS/L • 5-10 • Honolulu, Hawaii • Kamehameha Schools

A good volleyball player who the coaching staff is excited to have ... highly-skilled athlete ... has a lot of potential and will be thrown into the mix early.

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