The Utes have enjoyed their first spring of beach volleyball in 2017, competing in tournaments in Stanford, Calif., and Honolulu. The Utes then headed back indoors for a series of matches before competing in the Pac-12 Beach Volleyball Championship in late April.
The Ute beach volleyball team operates as a combined program under director of volleyball and indoor head coach Beth Launiere, along with assistant coach JJ Van Niel, who serves as the head coach of the beach volleyball team.
Utah, which finished the 2016 season ranked No. 25 in the final AVCA poll, advanced to the NCAA Tournament and recorded a 20-win season for the third time in four years.
In Pac-12 play, The Utes had the program's best finish in six years as a league member by placing fifth with an 11-9 record. Utah also had its best overall winning percentage (.625) and most road wins (10) since 2008.
Senior outside hitter Adora Anae earned second team AVCA All-America and first team All-Region honors. Anae, who broke her own school record for kills in a single-season (592), became the ninth different Utah player to earn AVCA All-American honors overall and the first since 2013.
Anae also earned first-team All-Pac-12 honors and led the league in kills per set (4.68) and points per set (5.20) during the regular season.
Senior middle blocker Tawnee Luafalemana, who received All-Pac-12 honorable mention in her first season after transferring from the College of Southern Idaho, registered 2.03 kills per set while hitting a team-best .330 on the season. She also led the squad with 14 solo blocks and 113 assisted blocks.
Senior outside hitter Carly Trueman was second on the team in kills per set (2.78). Sophomore setter Bailey Choy led the Utes with 7.17 assists per set in 2016. Brianna Doehrmann returns as a defensive specialist/libero.
The Utes had three Pac-12 All-Academic selections in 2016 with Eliza Katoa making the first team, Jessie Openshaw the second team, and Berkeley Oblad receiving honorable mention.
Among the newcomers for 2017 is freshman outside hitter Dani Barton, who was a 2016 second team Under Armour All-American and the Utah Gatorade Player of the Year. Barton was a standout for the Utes in beach volleyball during the spring.
With more than 500 victories to her name, Utah head volleyball coach Beth Launiere enters her 28th season at the helm of the Ute Volleyball program in 2017.
Reinvigorated by a permanent move into the Jon M. Huntsman Center for all home matches, Launiere and the Utes now have their sights set on moving up the ranks after six seasons in the Pac-12 Conference.
Launiere guided Utah to its 13th NCAA Tournament appearance in 2016 after going 20-12 overall and finishing fifth in a very competitive Pac-12 Conference race. Launiere posted her 16th 20-win season at the helm of the Utah program. Utah also managed to record a program-best 11 wins in Pac-12 play, which included seven victories on the road.
Launiere has coached players to first-team All-Pac-12 honors in back-to-back years with Shelby Dalton earning honors in 2014 and Adora Anae in 2015. In 2014, Launiere guided the Utes to wins in seven of their last eight regular-season matches—including five victories over Top 25 teams—and the second round of the NCAA tournament. It was the 10th time the Utes advanced beyond the first round under Launiere. The Utes have also reached the NCAA regional semifinals twice (2001, '08).
Launiere's ability to attract top-notch talent has helped take Utah to the forefront of collegiate volleyball. She has guided eight Utes to All-America honors while 12 have garnered all-region accolades. Utah's 2011 freshman class was ranked 20th in the nation by prepvolleyball.com, while the 2005 freshman class was ranked as the eighth-best by Volleyball Magazine.
Launiere was named the AVCA West Region Coach of the Year three times (2001, ‘06, ‘08) and the MWC Coach of the Year on three occasions (2004, ‘06, ‘08).
JJ Van Niel is in his third year at Utah. He serves as the team’s head beach volleyball coach and is an assistant on the hardwood. Van Niel spent the 2016 summer in Rio, serving as a scout coach for the U.S. Olympic Women's Volleyball Team.
He joined the Utes after serving as a consultant coach and scout for the USA Women's National Volleyball Team that won its first gold medal in the 2014 FIVB World Championship. Van Niel was previously a technical coordinator with the USA U23 Team that placed fourth at the 2013 FIVB World Championship, won silver at the 2014 Volleymasters and gold at the 2014 World Championships.
Van Niel also worked with San Diego's COAST Volleyball Club, serving as head coach of its elite travel teams for the past five seasons. He was an assistant coach for the UC San Diego men's volleyball program from 2011-14 and the girls' volleyball head coach of La Costa Canyon High School in 2014. Van Niel and his wife, Maria, have three children, Kaleb, Olivia and Nathaniel.
Malia Shoji is in her third year at Utah. Shoji was named an assistant coach for the Pac-12 Volleyball All-Star Team that toured China in the summer of 2016.
She made the move to Salt Lake City after serving as an assistant women's coach at Western Oregon University from 2012-14.
Shoji was an assistant coach with Willamette University in 2011 and helped establish the Capital City Elite Volleyball Club, serving as the director of business operations. Shoji was the lead coach for the Gold Medal Squared Volleyball Camps (2012-14), and has also been a head coach at the junior varsity and club levels.
Shoji played collegiately at Irvine Valley College from 2005-07. Malia's father, Tom, has been an NCAA volleyball coach for more than 30 years. Her uncle, Dave, currently ranks second in NCAA in career wins after 40 years at Hawai'i.
Beau Lawler is in his second year as the director of operations and third year with Utah volleyball.
Lawler spent his first season with the Utes as the team's video and statistics coordinator. Lawler now manages the day-to-day operations of the volleyball program, which also include taking the lead on social media and digital content for the team. He serves as the summer camp director for the program.
Prior to his coming on board at Utah in 2015, Lawler worked for Apple as the director of retail operations in the Utah market. He also worked at Nike for four years, serving in the same capacity for both the Orange County, Calif., and Utah markets.
A native of Agoura Hills, Calif., Lawler is pursuing a degree in mathematics with an emphasis in statistics and a minor in computer science at the U.
Kate Holdeman is in her fourth season with the Utah volleyball program, previous serving as the director of operations from 2014-15.
Holdeman's responsibilities primarily involve cultivating positive relationships within the Salt Lake community. She also handles volleyball alumni relations efforts and overseeing special events and reunions throughout the season.
Holdeman (formerly Robinson) was a four-year letterwinner for the Utes as an outside hitter from 2004-07. She has coached in the Salt Lake City area since 2005, including head coaching stints for the Elite 14s and 17s teams for the High Country Volleyball Club from 2011-13, as well as the Elite 17s and 18s teams at the Utah Juniors Volleyball Club from 2009-11.
Kate and her husband Scott have a daughter (Zoey).