Beach Volleyball Returns To Conference Play at Pac-12 North Invitational
Utah Beach Volleyball is set to return to Pac-12 play this weekend, heading to the Pac-12 North Invitational in Stanford, Calif., this Saturday and Sunday, April 9-10. Utah will open the weekend against No. 17 Arizona at 12 p.m. MT on Friday, while taking on Washington later that evening at 5 p.m. MT. The match against the Huskies will be televised on Pac-12 Bay Area.
On Sunday, the Utes will compete against Arizona State at 9 a.m. MT and will have the match also televised on Pac-12 Bay Area. Utah and No. 12 California will play at 12 p.m. MT to close out the conference weekend.
Utah has made history this season on a few occasions as the program continues to grow. The Utes have recorded the most wins in a single season in program history this year, sitting at eight wins with numerous matches left to play. A few weeks ago, Utah earned its first-ever regular season Pac-12 win after downing Oregon 3-2 at the Pac-12 South Invitational. The program had previously earned its only conference wins at the Pac-12 Championships prior to this season. The most recent milestone for Utah came this week as the Utes received votes in the AVCA Beach Volleyball Coaches poll for the first time in program history. Utah received two votes in the poll, ranking No. 25.
• Utah has played six top-10 opponents in the last two weekends of competition.
• Brenda Whicker is in 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 only 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 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.
• Grace Andrews and Bella Vezzani began the season at the No. 1 position and have played the past seven matches in the second court. The duo has recorded a 7-12 overall record.
• Sage Patchell and Amaya Messier competed in the top spot for the first time this season against Oregon and since then, while starting the season on court two before swapping places with Andrews and Vezzani. Patchell and Messier have picked up five wins together this season.
• Marissa Koch/Samantha Leight and Lauren Sayre/Sommer Daniel have competed at courts three and four, respectively, in every match this season. Koch/Leight hold an 8-11 record on court three, while Sayre/Daniel have posted a team-best 10-9 record to this point.
• Kylie Pitzak and Sydney Jacinto have played at the No. 5 position in the last 11 matches and are 6-5 overall. Also seeing playing time on court five this season has been Sonja Wessel/Keira Sheehan, and Stef Jankiewicz/Pitzak.
No. 17 Arizona has won its last six of seven matches, including wins over California, Arizona State and Washington at the Pac-12 event on its home courts. Washington is coming off wins over Colorado Mesa and Oregon this past weekend, while the squad has also earned an upset over No. 11 Cal two weeks ago to highlight its season so far. Arizona State heads into the tournament on a six-match losing streak, however, all losses came from ranked conference opponents and No. 7 Grand Canyon. The Sun Devils have posted notable wins over No. 13 Arizona and Washington at the start of the year, as well as Boise State and Colorado Mesa. Rounding out the competition is No. 12 Cal, which is riding a four-match win streak. The Golden Bears just earned a 3-2 win over No. 16 Long Beach State last weekend and also have wins over No. 9 Hawaii and No. 12 Cal Poly this season.
Utah will take a week off from competition before hosting its sole home event of the year on Friday and Saturday, April 22-23. The Utes will play Salt Lake Community College and Arizona on Friday at 9 a.m. MT and 3 p.m. MT, respectively. Then, Utah will compete against Boise State at 9 a.m. MT on Saturday, followed by its match against Cal Poly at 3 p.m. MT in Salt Lake City.
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 two spots 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 primarily at the No. 2 position to start the season before making the switch to court one 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 and Lauren Sayre have been holding down the third and fourth positions, respectively, while Keira Sheehan, Sonja Wessel, Sydney Jacinto and Kylie Pitzak have all earned time on court five. Jacinto and Pitzak earned two wins at the Pac-12 South Invitational last weekend after picking up a win over No. 8 Stanford and Oregon's fifth pair, while the duo won six-straight matches before falling in competition last weekend.
PAVING THE WAY
Utah's returners - Grace Andrews, Marissa Koch, and senior leader Sage Patchell – have made a presence at the top of the lineup all season long to lead the young Utah team. All three Utes played a key role in the team last season and have continued to step up this year. Andrews and Patchell have teamed up with freshman and have been a part of Utah's No. 1 and No. 2 pairs all season long. Koch has been a consistent contributor on court three in every match this year.
Utah Beach Volleyball welcomes 10 newcomers to the 14-person roster in 2022. Take a dive into some of our freshmen's stories and learn about their journey to the U.
- Amaya Messier: Driven To Succeed on the Sand
- Sonja Wessel: From Singapore to Salt Lake
- Samantha Leight: Health and Heart Over Height