Utah finished with a 13-5 record and earned the No. 14 overall seed in the 2020 NCAA Tournament. It was the fifth straight year and the seventh time in the last eight years the Utes advanced to NCAAs.
Outside hitter Dani Drews became the first Ute to be named an AVCA First Team All-American for a second time, the first Pac-12 Player of the Year in the program’s history and the first to be named the Pacific South Region Player of the Year for a second time last season. It was third time Drews has earned All-American honors in her career. Drews, who elected to come back for her super senior season in 2021, led the nation with 5.21 kills per set.
Two other key outside hitters return in 2021. Sophomore Zoe Weatherington was limited to nine matches last season due to injury but was effective when she was on the court, averaging 2.73 kills per set. Junior Madelyn Robinson, a transfer from BYU, played in 17 matches while averaging 2.52 kills per set and hitting .248.
In the middle, junior Phoebe Grace led the team with 1.05 blocks per set last season while playing in all 18 matches. She also hit .345 with 1.20 kills per set. Sophomore Kennedy Evans was Utah’s second-best blocker last season with 0.93 per set, and averaged 1.13 kills per set. Freshman defensive specialist Vanessa Ramirez was third on the team last season with 2.85 digs per set.
The Utes are adding four players for the 2021 season. Graduate transfer Stef Jankiewicz is coming from Illinois State, where she was named the Missouri Valley Conference Setter of the Year and became the first player in league history to earn the award twice. She ranked in the top 40 in NCAA Division I in assists per set (10.87).
Middle blocker Amelia Van Der Werff spent her freshman season at Middle Tennessee State, where she was named to the C-USA All-Freshman team. She had a team-leading .347 hitting percentage, was second on the team with 149 kills and third with 36 blocks.
Kiley McMurtrey, a defensive specialist transferring Eastern Oregon, was a three-time Libero of the Year in the CCC. McMurtrey earned First Team All-CCC Team honors in 2019 after averaging over five digs per set. Kamry Bailey is an outside hitter from Boulder City, Nev. She has been named 3A state MVP for the past two high school seasons. Her club career highlights include a national championship her freshman year in the USA division.
The most successful coach in Utah volleyball history, Beth Launiere has built the program into a national power.
In 31 years at the U, Launiere has registered 601 career victories, including 288 conference wins. She has guided the Utes to 18 seasons with at least 20 wins and 17 NCAA Tournaments, including four Sweet 16 appearances. Utah has made seven of the last eight NCAA Tournaments and advanced to the regional semifinals twice in the last four years.
In 2020, Utah earned the No. 14 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament, tied its all-time best Pac-12 finish of third, and went 13-5 in a shortened season. The 2019 season was one of Launiere's best as she was named both the Pac-12 and AVCA Region Coach of the Year. Utah went 24-10 overall and had its highest finish in the AVCA poll at No. 9. The Utes placed third in the Pac-12 with a 14-6 record, achieving their most wins since joining the “Conference of Champions” in 2011. A program-record four Utes earned All-America honors and five Utes earned post-season recognition from the Pac-12 Conference.
Launiere has been named an AVCA Regional Coach of the Year four times (2001, '06, '08, '19) and a conference Coach of the Year on four occasions (2004, '06, ‘08, ‘19).
Launiere has guided 13 Utes to All-America honors while 17 have earned AVCA All-Region accolades. Twelve Utes have earned All-Pac-12 recognition under Launiere and five have made the All-Freshman team. Drews became the first Ute to be named an AVCA First Team All-American two times, the first Pac-12 Player of the Year in the program’s history and the first to be named the Pacific South Region Player of the Year for a second time. Adora Anae became Utah's first-ever First Team All-American in 2017, and was a two-time All-America and three-time All-Pac-12 selection during her career.
Launiere coached for USA Volleyball every summer from 2009-11. She got back on the sidelines with USA Volleyball in the summer of 2019 as an assistant for the U.S. Women's Collegiate National Team University Games in Napoli, Italy.
Launiere's impact on the sport goes well beyond the court. She served as the AVCA President during the 2009 calendar year. She joined the AVCA Board of Directors in 2004 and served a three-year term as the Division I Volleyball Coaches Representative from 2005-07 after being a part of the AVCA's All-America Committee for five years.
Launiere arrived at Utah in 1990 and took over a team that had compiled a 1-32 record the previous year. Inspiring a turnaround in the program, she recorded Utah's first winning season in seven years (18-15) in her third season in 1992. Utah earned its first postseason berth in 1993, placing third in the NIVC, and made NCAAs for the first time in 1998.
Prior to coming to Utah, the Grand Rapids, Mich., native was as an assistant coach at Illinois (1988-89). The Illini went 57-12 during Launiere's stay and made it to two NCAA Tournaments, including the 1988 Final Four.
An assistant at Ferris State (Mich.) from 1985-87, Launiere helped the Bulldogs earn three postseason bids, including an appearance in the 1987 NCAA Division II Final Four.
Launiere graduated in 1985 from Aquinas College in Michigan. She earned a bachelor's degree in business administration and economics and has a master's in sports administration from Illinois.
Malia Shoji is in her seventh season with Utah volleyball program. Shoji was elevated to associate head coach after serving three years as an assistant coach. Shoji has helped lead the Utes to five consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances, including the regional semifinals in 2017 and 2019.
In addition to her on-court duties, Shoji has also been the team's recruiting coordinator the past five seasons. In 2017 and 2018, the Utes signed top-30 recruiting classes according to PrepVolleyball.com, including the 11th-ranked class in 2017 for the highest in program history.
With Shoji's success with the Utes, she has had several international opportunities. She was an assistant coach for the 2019 USA Volleyball High Performance Women's Junior A1 Team. Following her first season with 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.
Dan Corotan is in his fourth season with the Utes. He helped guide Utah to the second round of the NCAA Tournament in 2018 and the Sweet 16 in 2019, and has been instrumental in developing Utah's outside hitters. Dani Drews has been a three-time AVCA All-American and was the 2020 Pac-12 Player of the Year, while Kenzie Kerber made the All-America Second Team in 2019-20.
Before joining the Utah staff, Corotan coached at Utah Valley. In three years with the Wolverines, the team went 45-44 overall and 28-14 in Western Athletic Conference play. UVU was the WAC runner-up in 2016 for the program's highest league finish. The Wolverines finished in the top eight in the nation in blocking in 2016 and '17.
Prior to being named UVU's assistant coach in 2015, Corotan served as the team's video and stats coordinator. Corotan also has coaching experience at the club level, coaching various boys' and girls' teams at the club level around Utah. Corotan graduated from BYU in 2014. He was a standout volleyball player at Los Alamitos High School (Calif.) and played club beach volleyball for several years.
Former Utah standout Brenda Whicker is in her fourth season as the beach volleyball head coach for the Utes.
Following a decorated indoor career at Utah from 1994-97, Whicker has played beach volleyball for over 20 years. One of the top players in the state and the region, Whicker played on the beach circuit from 2009-10 and qualified for the 2013 AVP Tournament in Salt Lake City. She has conducted beach volleyball camps and clinics for the last five years.
Whicker is one of just five Ute indoor players who have registered 1,000 kills and 1,000 digs during their careers. She ranks third all-time with 1,565 career kills and fourth overall with 1,313 career digs. She is the program's all-time leader with 161 career service aces.
Sheldon Carvalho is in his second year as Utah volleyball's director of operations and third year as assistant beach volleyball coach.
Born and raised in Hawaii, Carvalho lettered in volleyball, basketball, and track in high school, and was selected to the Kauai Interscholastic Federation (KIF) all-star team in volleyball as an outside hitter.
Since his playing days, he has worked with USA National Team member and University of Hawaii men's volleyball All-American Allen Allen on his A2 Beach Clinics. He was also involved with the Akamai Beach Tour.
Carvalho trained youth players in Alaska while serving as the associate head coach during the summers for the Pass to Play youth beach program. He also played men's doubles and co-ed doubles summer sand volleyball in the Alaska Outdoor Volleyball Association.