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Countdown to First Serve (2013 @UtahVolleyball Preview): Outside Hitters

Morgan Odale and Chelsey Schofield will anchor Utah's outside hitter group in 2013.

Morgan Odale and Chelsey Schofield will anchor Utah's outside hitter group in 2013.

Aug 19, 2013

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SALT LAKE CITY - With the University of @UtahVolleyball team starting its 2013 season on Aug. 30, UtahUtes.com will once again break down the Utes' roster position-by-position.

2013 UtahUtes.com Volleyball Position-By-Position Preview

Monday, Aug. 19: Outside Hitters
Tuesday, Aug. 20: Right-Side Hitters
Wednesday, Aug. 21: Middle Blockers
Thursday, Aug. 22: Setters/Liberos
Friday, Aug. 23: Schedule

With its new permanent home now set up in the Jon M. Huntsman Center, the University of Utah volleyball team is now looking to make another move into to the top tier of the Pac-12 Conference.

"Just from a pure fan standpoint, it's wonderful," Utah Head Coach Beth Launiere said. "We'll have a nice venue for us to play in. The fans are going to enjoy it. We have access to a lot more technology with the video board and that kind of stuff, which is going to enhance the experience for our fans. Our Marketing Department is going to be able to take things to another level. Recruits are going to be very excited about playing in this historic and beautiful facility and most importantly, our players are very excited about the move."

The Utes welcome back six starters who have combined to start 352 matches for Utah over their respective careers heading into the program's third year in the Pac-12.

"From a competitive standpoint, it's excellent because we play in big arenas in the Pac-12 and, as much as we love Crimson Court and the home-court advantage we had there, sometimes it was difficult for us to go on the road and play in bigger arenas. It's just different playing in a big arena. It's going to help us play more consistently on the road. Our student-athletes are excited about it. They deserve it. It's a great step up for our program."

Each year, Utah continues to feel more comfortable among its peers in the premier volleyball conference in the country.

"It's completely different heading into this year," Launiere said. "Our two seniors have two years under their belt in the Pac-12 and everyone else doesn't know anything different than Pac-12 play. Most of our players are comfortable in this conference. We've learned a lot and now we're a more experienced team. We're ready to hopefully make a move into the upper half of the conference."

The Utes' jump to the Pac-12 has altered their recruiting strategy and a product of their new practices is a talented group of four incoming freshmen who will join the Ute roster this season and look to produce results right away.

"Our standards as well as the way we look at recruits have changed," Launiere said. "The way we think about getting recruits has changed. Everything has changed and it's now the norm."

Despite finishing in ninth place in the Pac-12 for the second consecutive season in 2012, Utah took away many positives from its experience on the court last season against the nation's best teams.

"I'm definitely a `glass half full' coach," Launiere said. "There were so many good things to come from last season. We had five, five-set losses in the Pac-12 and very few 3-0 losses. We have to take steps and we took a huge step from the first year to the second year by getting in those five-set matches and being competitive in almost every match we played. That wasn't the case in the first year. That was a huge step for us last year."

Outside Hitters

Veteran starters, senior Morgan Odale and junior Chelsey Schofield, pack a punch from Utah's outside hitter position with 1,729 career kills between the pair. Odale was second in Pac-12 and 92nd in the NCAA with 0.33 service aces per set. She was also third in league with 0.33 service aces per set during Pac-12 matches. Schofield led team with 3.19 kills (218th in NCAA) and 3.66 points per set and also averaged 2.39 digs per set.

"Morgan and Chelsey both played on the USA A2 Team this summer and both have a pretty significant amount of experience now," Launiere said. "They've both been in a lot of battles, a senior and a junior who have started their entire respective careers."

A wild card in the equation may be found in junior Makenzie Moea'i, an American Fork, Utah native who is transferring to the Utes after playing two seasons at UNLV. In two seasons with the Rebels, she notched five or more kills in a match 44 times and hit double figures on 23 occasions. She pounded down 494 career kills at UNLV and led all Rebel attackers in 2011 with 330 kills for a team-best 2.92 kills per set.

"Moea'i is going to compete with them and she brings a whole different set of factors to the lineup," Launiere said. "Makenzie has a special ability to get kills so whether she's coming off the bench or not or starting, she can get kills for us. The combination of the three on the left-side is the strongest combination that we've ever had in this program. We are going to need all three to be a top-tier team in the Pac-12."

Freshman Jaydra Thurber is a product of Temecula, Calif., who was a second-team all-league selection at Chaparral High School in 2012.

"Just like most freshmen, Jaydra will need to adjust to the college game," Launiere said. "She's a big, 6-1 kid who has been playing outside hitter on a great club team. She'll give us some nice depth there."

Outside Hitter Player Notes

Morgan Odale • 6-1 • Sr. • Star, Idaho • Eagle H.S.
In three years as a starter, she has played this game a long time at a high level ... made some significant strides during the 2012 season and has a tremendous upside to her game ... a mentally tough competitor who has been in the battles ... has been Utah's go-to player with the game on the line ... already has 1,020 career kills and 831 career digs ... 13th member of Utah's 1,000-kill club ... has 21 career double-doubles.

Chelsey Schofield • 6-1 •Jr. • Provo, Utah • Mountain View H.S.
Received a lot of high-pressure sets at the end of matches in her first two seasons and handled them extremely well ... had 10 or more kills in 13 straight matches stretching from at Arizona on Nov. 11, 2011 to Sept. 1, 2012 against North Carolina ... has 41 career double-figure-kill matches ... five career matches with 20 or more kills ... 20 career double-doubles with 12 coming in 2012 ... became a key player for the Utes by the second round of Pac-12 play in 2011 ... has the best `game' of anyone on the Ute roster: she's a great passer, has all of the shots offensively, and sees the game well ... an all-around player who makes any team better ... mentally tough and aggressive.

Makenzie Moea'i • 6-0 • Jr. • American Fork, Utah • UNLV
Two-year starter at UNLV ... a talented player and gifted athlete who has a lot of game ... sees the game well and hits hard and high ... redshirt year gave her a chance to work on every aspect of her game: back-row, passing, serving and defense.

Jaydra Thurber • 6-1 • Fr. • Temecula, Calif. • Chaparral H.S.
A big, 6-1 athlete ... was a member of a great club team, but will need to adjust to the college game ... will contribute to a nice level of depth in Utah's outside hitter group ... second-team all-league selection at Chaparral High School in 2012.

 

 

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