The Utah volleyball team bore no illusions when the move to the Pac-12 was announced.
The Pac-12, the Utes knew, was home to some of the best volleyball programs in the country, and wins would be scarce for the first few years. Two years into facing a Pac-12 schedule, the conference has lived up to expectations. The Utes are 3-13 against Pac-12 competition.
But progress is not always best measured in wins and losses. The Utes have stockpiled their roster with Pac-12-caliber players who are gaining valuable experience. Leading the way is middle blocker Erin Redd, whose performance has given fans a glimpse into what the Utes hope the future holds.
The Spanish Fork graduate ranks in the top 10 in the conference in hitting percentage and is among the conference leaders in blocks per set. She's established herself as the type of player the Utes need to find success in the Pac-12.
"I realize that I can compete against the best volleyball players in the country, and I can be one of those players," Redd said. "It's great to be seen as such a huge threat by other teams because it helps my teammates. It opens so much for them, so I feel my role on the team is huge."
Utah coach Beth Launiere said Redd, a 2010 All-Mountain West selection, was ready physically for the move to the Pac-12. But she's added pieces to her game over the past two years to become the type of player worthy of being called one of the best in the Pac-12.
"She plays high, and she's physical like a lot of players in the Pac-12," Launiere said. "I think she's one of the top middle blockers in the country, and she's showing that in the Pac-12."
Redd credits much of her success to the move to the Pac-12. Playing against better competition inspired her to improve her skills to match the level of her opponents. For instance, opponents sometimes could find ways to shut her down last season. This season, she's countered that by learning new ways to score, ensuring her impact is much more difficult to mitigate.
"Every game, we go up against the best competition in the nation," Redd said. "Just playing against top-tier athletes pushes you to get better and get out of your comfort zones. It's helped my game all-around."
The Utes are hopeful Redd's performance is indicative of what's to come. They believe their roster is full of players who can have similar success in the Pac-12. They've seen improvement as this season has progressed, and next year they'll have several players who will have started for multiple seasons.
"Our level of play is so much more than it was at the beginning of the season," Redd said. "And it's just going to keep getting better, and we're going to build on what we have. It's great to see the potential our team has."