Utah Volleyball Opens 2021 Season With Pair of Matches Against Utah Valley
Match 1: Utah (0-0) at Utah Valley (0-0)
Friday, Aug. 27 | 6 p.m. MT
Orem, Utah | Lockhart Arena
Live Stats: StatBroadcast
Match 2: Utah (0-0) vs. Utah Valley (0-0)
Saturday, Aug. 28 | 7 p.m. MT
Salt Lake City, Utah | Huntsman Center
Stream: Pac-12 Networks
Live Stats: StatBroadcast
The No. 19-ranked Utah volleyball team will open the 2021 season with a pair of matches against the Utah Valley Wolverines this weekend to get the fall slate started. The Utes will travel to Orem, Utah for the season opener this Friday, Aug. 27 with the match scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. MT. The match at Lockhart Arena will air on ESPN+, while live stats can be found here.
Utah Valley will then make the return trip to Salt Lake City on Saturday, Aug. 28 for Utah volleyball's home opener. The first match of the year at the Jon M. Huntsman Center will begin at 7 p.m. MT and will be a 'White Out'. All fans wearing white apparel will receive free admission. The match will also air on the Pac-12 Networks.
• Beth Launiere is entering her 32nd season at the helm of the program. She surpassed the 600-win mark this past spring season with a win over Colorado in three sets and heads into the fall campaign at 601 career victories.
• Utah is coming off the program's fifth-straight NCAA Tournament appearance and 17th overall.
• The Utes were voted No. 19 in the AVCA preseason poll, marking the fifth-straight year Utah has been ranked or received votes in the preseason poll. Utah also achieved a program-high ranking of No. 7 in the nation during the 2021 spring season.
• Utah has won 13 straight season openers and is 28-18 all-time (4-4 road) in season openers. The Utes will open the season in a true road match for the first time since 2003.
RUN IT BACK
Dani Drews, the reigning Pac-12 Player of the Year, announced she would return for a fifth year after her shortened senior season last spring. Drews is coming off her second-straight AVCA First Team All-American selection, becoming the first player in program history to earn two first team honors. She also was named the AVCA Pacific South Player of the Year for a second time and is the only Ute to do so in program history.
She led the team in kills every match during the spring season and posted a nation-leading 5.21 kills per set. The Sandy, Utah native is second all-time in kills (1,687) at Utah and holds the single-season program record in kills (643, 2019), along with the single-match record in kills in the rally-scoring era in three sets (22, 2018), four sets (30, 2x) and five sets (33, 2019).
Utah returns four of six starters and its libero from last spring's NCAA Tournament squad. Along with Drews, key returners for the Utes include All-Pac-12 honorable mention honoree Madelyn Robinson, last year's starting libero Vanessa Ramirez, and 2019 All-Pac-12 freshman team selection Zoe Weatherington. Robinson totaled 131 kills last season (2.81 kills per set), while Weatherington averaged 2.73 k/s before suffering an injury midway through the season. Ramirez held down the backcourt with 2.85 digs per set and the second-most digs on the year, while Megan Yett will also look to continue her defensive presence for Utah after averaging 2.06 d/s in the spring.
Phoebe Grace returns as Utah's leading blocker last year, where she averaged 1.05 blocks per set and totaled 67.0 on the year. Other letterwinners returning for Utah are setters Emily Smith and Sommer Daniel, and middle blockers Kennedi Evans and Allie Olsen. Utah also brings back Abby Karich, who redshirted in the spring.
NEW ON THE BLOCK
The Utes welcomed three transfers and a true freshman to the 2021 roster. Senior setter Stef Jankiewicz comes to the U from Illinois State where she was a two-time Missouri Valley Conference Setter of the Year and the first player in league history to earn the award twice. Jankiewicz is also a three-time AVCA All-North Region selection. Playing as a defensive specialist/libero is senior Kiley McMurtrey, who transferred from Eastern Oregon. McMurtrey is a 2020 AVCA All-American, a Northern All-Region selection and three-time CCC Libero of the Year.
Amelia Van Der Werff spent her first season at Middle Tennessee State before making the move to Utah. She became the third player in program history to be named to the C-USA All-Freshman team this past spring and started all 15 matches. Van Der Werff posted a team-leading .347 hitting percentage and finished second in kills. The sole true freshman on the squad this year is Kamry Bailey, who comes as a three-time state champion from Boulder City, Nev. Bailey was a back-to-back 3A State MVP, and was a national champion with her club team her freshman year in the USA division.
SCOUTING UTAH VALLEY
Utah Valley is coming off a phenomenal spring campaign that led to an NCAA Tournament berth for the first time in program history. The Wolverines finished tied for second in the Western Athletic Conference last year and were picked to finish in first place this fall in the conference preseason poll. Senior Kazna Tanuvasa was nominated as the preseason WAC Player of the Year after earning an honorable mention AVCA All-American nod in the spring, marking the first-ever All-American honor in program history. Utah Valley also returns all but three players from last year's team.
Utah volleyball is set to compete in an exciting non-conference schedule before the gauntlet of Pac-12 play begins. Along with the pair of contests against Utah Valley, Utah will matchup against No. 20 San Diego, and Cal Poly and Hawaii, which are both receiving votes in the preseason poll, at this year's Utah Classic over Labor Day weekend. Utah will also play at the historic Devaney Center in Lincoln, Neb., when it takes on No. 5 Nebraska. Capping off a loaded preseason schedule, Utah will face No. 15 BYU at Smith Fieldhouse in Provo before Pac-12 play begins. For a full look at the schedule, click here.
TIME FOR SEASON TICKETS
Come out and bring back the home court advantage for Utah volleyball this fall. There is no place like the Huntsman Center and it is time to secure season tickets for the season to catch all the action. Visit UtahTickets.com to purchase tickets and help make the Huntsman Center the loudest in the nation.
Utah volleyball is set to host the Utah Classic next weekend, spanning over Friday and Saturday, Sept. 3-4. The Utes will play Cal Poly at 10 a.m. MT on Friday, followed by a match against No. 20 San Diego later that evening at 7 p.m. MT. The Utes will then close out their home tournament against Hawaii on Saturday at 7 p.m. MT.