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Utah Beach Volleyball Set To Face Four Top-8 Ranked Teams This Weekend In Arizona

Mar 23, 2022
Match 9: Utah (4-4) at #7 Grand Canyon (12-4)
Friday, March 25 | 3 p.m. MT
Phoenix, Ariz. | GCU Beach Volleyball Stadium
 
Match 12: Utah (4-4) vs. #8 Stanford (6-4)
Sunday, March 27 | 10:15 a.m. MT
Tucson, Ariz. | Bear Down Beach
 
Match 10: Utah (4-4) vs. #1 UCLA (15-0)
Saturday, March 26 | 10 a.m. MT
Tucson, Ariz. | Bear Down Beach
 
Match 13: Utah (4-4) vs. Oregon (7-4)
Sunday, March 27 | 4:30 p.m. MT
Tucson, Ariz. | Bear Down Beach
 
Match 11: Utah (4-4) vs. #3 USC (12-1)
Saturday, March 26 | 3 p.m. MT
Tucson, Ariz. | Bear Down Beach
 

MATCH WEEK
Utah Beach Volleyball is set for a weekend in the desert as it travels to Arizona for five road matches, which includes four of five opponents ranked inside the top-eight in the country. Utah will begin the tough weekend against No. 7 Grand Canyon in Phoenix on Friday, March 25 at 3 p.m. MT. The Utes will quickly turn their attention to Pac-12 play with matches against top-ranked UCLA and third-ranked USC on Saturday, March 26. Utah will play UCLA at 10 a.m. MT and USC at 3 p.m. MT in Tucson, Ariz.

Utah will close out the weekend against No. 8 Stanford and Oregon the following day with the matches set for 10:15 a.m. MT and 4:30 p.m. MT, respectively. All four conference matches will be televised on the Pac-12 Networks. Live stats for the four Pac-12 contests will also be available here.

QUICK HITS
• Utah has had the same starting lineup in all but one match this season.
• Utah's fourth pairing of Sommer Daniel and Lauren Sayre has posted a 7-1 record to begin the season.
• Brenda Whicker is entering her fifth season at the helm of the program. The 2022 season is the first year Whicker has a roster filled with primarily beach-recruited student-athletes. There are just two indoor players on this year's roster.
• Utah will host its sole home event of the year on Friday and Saturday, Apr. 22-23. Utah will welcome Salt Lake Community College, Arizona, Boise State, and Cal Poly to Salt Lake City.
• Utah will play nine teams this season currently ranked in the top-20 of the country.
• Utah has just four returners on this year's roster, while the team welcomed 10 newcomers. Eight of the 10 newcomers are freshmen, while the other two student-athletes joined the squad from the indoor volleyball team.
  
LINEUP LOOKS
The Utes' top pair all season has been returner Grace Andrews and freshman Bella Vezzani, who provided the match-clinching point in the 3-2 win over San Jose State. Andrews and Vezzani have totaled four wins on court one. On court two for Utah in every match has been freshman Amaya Messier and senior Sage Patchell, while sophomore Marissa Koch and freshman Samantha Leight have paired up on court three. Sommer Daniel and Lauren Sayre compete on court four and have recorded a team-best 7-1 record this season, while the No. 5 pair of Sonja Wessel and Keira Sheehan are tied with the second-most wins (5) this year with Koch and Leight. Stef Jankiewicz and Kylie Pitzak also competed on court five in the season opener.

THE COMPETITION
Utah's tough weekend in the desert begins at seventh-ranked Grand Canyon. GCU has dropped just four matches to this point with all four losses coming to team ranked in the top-five of the nation. Notable wins for the Lopes have come over No. 8 Stanford (3-2) and No. 11 Cal Poly (3-2). The Pac-12 stretch begins with the pair of LA schools in top-ranked UCLA and third-ranked USC, which were last year's national runner-ups and national champions, respectively. UCLA has gone unbeaten so far, while USC has dropped its only match this season to rivals UCLA. Stanford, who is currently No. 8 in the nation, has posted wins over No. 10 Hawaii and No. 11 Cal Poly to highlight its season. Lastly, Oregon heads into the weekend 7-4 overall and has posted notable wins over San Francisco and Sacramento State.

NON-CONFERENCE NOTES
The Utah beach volleyball team is set to compete in a very competitive non-conference slate this season. The Utes will take on top-20 ranked teams in Grand Canyon, Hawaii, Loyola Marymount, and Cal Poly while also being tasked with facing five ranked Pac-12 squads. Following the season-opening outing in San Jose to begin the year and a quick trip to Colorado, Utah will face Grand Canyon before heading to the Pac-12 South Event, while non-conference play will resume once again the following week. The non-conference slate is highlighted by the opportunity to play at Manhattan Beach at the beginning of April when the Utes face Loyola Marymount and Hawaii. For a full look at the schedule, click here.
  
UP NEXT
Utah will take a break from Pac-12 play for a weekend as the team is set to play six matches Apr. 1-3 in California. Utah will first travel to Irvine, Calif., to take on Master's University and Concordia Irvine on Friday, Apr. 1. The Utes then continue action with matches against host Irvine Valley College and CSU Bakersfield on Saturday. The highlight of the trip will be on Sunday when the team competes at Manhattan Beach for neutral site matches against Hawaii and Loyola Marymount.
 
FRESHMEN FRENZY
The Utes welcome eight new freshmen to this year's team and are the first class of solely beach-recruited players. Bella Vezzani has jumped into the top spot for Utah in her first season, pairing with one of the few returners Grace Andrews. Vezzani hails from Castle Rock, Colo., where she was a AVCA All-Region selection. Contributing at the No. 2 position is Amaya Messier, who also comes to the U. from Colorado. Messier was the 2019 AVP America Grand Prix winner, as well as a JVA Beach Volleyball Watchlist selection in 2019. Samantha Leight, Lauren Sayre, Keira Sheehan and Sonja Wessel have also made their way into the starting lineup this season for the young Utah squad. Leight and Sayre joined the team from Arizona, while Sydney Jacinto, Kylie Pitzak, Wessel, and Sheehan all made their way from California.

PAVING THE WAY
Utah looks to its returners to lead the way for the group of newcomers, which is highlighted by Grace Andrews, Marissa Koch, and senior leader Sage Patchell's presence at the top of the lineup. All three Utes played a key role in the team last season and have continued to step up this year. Andrews has held the top spot, while Patchell and Koch have competed in the second and third positions, respectively, in every match this season. Camille Lee rounds out the returners from a year ago and is coming off an exhibition win with Stef Jankiewicz last weekend against Colorado Mesa.

GOING INSIDE OUT
Sophomore Sommer Daniel made the switch from indoor to the sand this spring and has found her groove with partner Lauren Sayre on court four. Daniel is in her first year as a beach volleyball player for Utah and has began the season with a team-high seven dual wins. Daniel has been primarily a setter and defensive specialist for the indoor squad. Senior setter Stef Jankiewicz came to the U from Illinois State as a graduate transfer with intentions to play beach volleyball. Originally transferring to Utah for beach, Jankiewicz also ended up competing on the hardwood where she helped guide the Utah Volleyball team to a 22-9 record and a postseason victory over Utah Valley in the NCAA Tournament. Jankiewicz filled the setter role for the team starting all 31 matches where she led the team in assists (1,129) and earned All-Pac-12 honorable mention honors. She competed for the beach squad in the first match of the year with Kylie Pitzak and has since played in a few exhibition matches.