Shannon Krug begins the season ranking ninth all-time in assists at Utah.
Aug. 22, 2006
This Week - The 2006 season gets under way as the No. 24 (CSTV/AVCA Coaches Poll) University of Utah volleyball team (0-0 overall) begins the season with non-conference tilts at the Aquafina Invitational, hosted by the University of Florida. First up for the Utes is Arkansas State on Friday, Aug. 25, at 3 p.m. followed by No. 5-ranked Florida on Saturday, Aug. 26, at 5 p.m. (Times are Mountain Daylight Time.)
Quoting Head Coach Beth Launiere:
On Preseason Workouts: "It's going very well. We've accomplished a lot in the last two weeks. I've seen a lot of individual improvement and I feel that the team has learned our system. There's a lot of good competition in the gym and our attitudes have been great. I think everything is really coming together as we set out to start our 2006 season."
On Opening the 2006 Season: "This weekend won't be easy. Taking on Arkansas State and Florida, it feels like we have to be in mid-season form. But, we won't be and neither will they. We just have to go down there prepared and learn from these matches so that we can become a better team.
"This is a great opportunity for us to play two matches against two very good teams. We're going to learn a lot about ourselves right off the bat and that's not going to be a bad thing at all."
Outlook - The Utes return five starters and eight letterwinners from the 2005 team that went 23-9 and made it to the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Among the returners are Airial Salvo and Shannon Krug, both of whom were named preseason all-conference. Salvo is the top returning attacker, having averaged 3.36 kills per game as a freshman, while Krug returns as one of the top setters in the conference with an 11.76 assists per-game average.
From the right side, Whitney Webb adds both offense and defense. Earning a starting role midway through the 2005 campaign, Webb wrapped up her sophomore campaign with 2.16 kills per game and 0.98 blocks.
Defensively, the back row got a shot in the arm with the return of junior libero Connie Dangerfield. She sat out the 2005 campaign due to injury but was the top libero in the conference in 2004. Two seasons ago she led the Mountain West Conference with 4.17 digs per game and was named its Libero of the Year.
Highlighting the newcomers is freshman setter Sydney Anderson. Anderson comes to Utah having been one of top junior setters in the country. She should be able to step in and contribute right away.
Where We Rank - The Utes are ranked No. 24 in the CSTV/AVCA Preseason Coaches Poll. In fact, the Utes have been ranked in the preseason coaches poll in five of the last six years. This ranking marks the 61st time that the Utes have been ranked in the poll.
The Pick of the Litter - Two Utes earned preseason all-conference accolades. Outside hitter Airial Salvo and setter Shannon Krug were named to the team as voted by the coaches and selected media members. They were the only sophomores on the team. Salvo was all-conference in addition to MWC and West Region Freshman of the Year. Krug finished her freshman campaign with all-tournament accolades.
What the Future May Hold - The MWC preseason coaches poll tabbed the Utes as a co-favorite to win the league's regular season title. They received 116 points and six first-place votes, as did Brigham Young. Following BYU were Colorado State (101 points), UNLV (83), San Diego State (59), Wyoming (59), New Mexico (42), TCU (41) and Air Force (14).
Familiar Faces - Florida head coach Mary Wise is familiar with at least one of the Ute spikers. Last summer, Wise coached Airial Salvo's US National A2 team at the Open Invitational in New Orleans. Salvo was one of the top players on the team, earning all-tournament accolades for her effort.
Checking the Records - Shannon Krug's 1,423 assists rank ninth all-time at Utah. Nearing the all-time top 10 are Emillie Toone and Connie Dangerfield. Toone needs 19 block assists to crack the top 10 as well as 29 total blocks. Dangerfield's 628 career digs is 287 short of the cracking the career annals.
Scouting the Opponents:
Arkansas State - The Indians also open the season this weekend, returning four starters and eight letterwinners from the 2005 squad that went 11-19. They went 4-9 in the Sun Belt Conference last year, taking fifth in the East Division. The preseason coaches poll tabbed ASU to finish fourth in the West Division. Randilyne Volkemer is the team's top defensive player, averaging 4.77 digs per game last year. Robin Aaron led the team's offense in 2005, chalking up 3.55 kills. She also added 1.03 blocks per game.
Florida - The Gators are the No. 5-ranked team in the nation and, like Utah, open the season on Friday. They host South Florida in their season opener. Florida returns five starters and 10 letterwinners from the 2005 team that went 33-3 and made it to the NCAA Regional Final. The Gators also were first (15-1) in the Southeastern Conference last season. Kisya Killingsworth is the Gators' top returning player, netting 3.45 kills and 1.30 blocks in 2005.
Net Gains - Utah's match with No. 5 Florida will be streamed live on Florida's Web site (www.gatorzone.com). Live audio and video of the top-25 clash will be available to fans at a fee of $9.95. In addition, all of Utah's home matches will have live audio and video available at www.utahutes.com at no charge.
At the Helm - Beth Launiere is in her 17th season as Utah's head coach. She has a 322-187 career record. She has led her squad to NCAA Tournament appearances the last eight seasons, including a "Sweet 16" showing in 2001. Following her "Sweet 16" run, Launiere was named the 2001 Tachikara/AVCA Division I West Region Coach of the Year. Launiere's Utes have recorded 10 20-win seasons, and in 2005, Utah posted a then-school-record 12 conference victories. A native of Grand Rapids, Mich., Launiere graduated from Aquinas College and was an assistant at Ferris State and Illinois before taking over the Ute program in 1990.
Next Week - The Utes head to Los Angeles to play in a three-match tournament on the campus of USC. Utah will battle North Carolina (Friday, Sept. 1), No. 14 USC (Saturday, Sept. 2) and Fresno State (Sunday, Sept. 3). The Utes' home opener is on Sept. 8-9. The Utes host a four-team, round-robin Utah Classic with Utah State, Missouri State and Temple.