UVU women's volleyball: UVU beat North Dakota to secure first GWC regular-season crown
OREM — Brookelyn Campbell delivered her first career triple-double and Jaicee Kuresa smashed 14 kills en route to a four-set victory over North Dakota (25-20, 20-25, 25-19, 25-19) Friday that clinched the first-ever Great West Conference regular season title for the Wolverines.
"We had to work hard for the win, and we knew North Dakota was going to be tough," said UVU head volleyball coach Sam Atoa. "I'm proud that the girls stayed disciplined in doing the things they needed to do for us to take care of things tonight."
UVU (22-8, 9-1 GWC) wasted no time getting on the scoreboard in the first set, putting together a 6-0 run to jump ahead 8-2 over the Fighting Sioux (24-5, 8-2 GWC).
McKenna Tait dropped in three service aces and Kuresa drilled three kills during the rally. UND countered with a run of its own to pull within two at 11-9, but another huge Wolverine rally would ultimately seal the opening set for the home team. A pair of kills from Katie Fritzler, who filled in at middle blocker for the injured Erica Nish, and another ace from Tait fueled a 10-2 run that made the score 21-11.
A late rally by UND kept things interesting, but a pair of Sarah Clement kills and another from Fritzler closed out the first set for UVU, 25-20.
UVU got a set-high five kills from Clement in the opening frame, followed by three apiece from Fritzler and Kuresa. Tait's four service aces rounded out UVU's offensive attack.
After trading blows for the first half of the second set, it was UND that eventually grabbed control of the set, forging a 5-0 run to take a 19-14 lead. UVU showed signs of a comeback after a Kuresa kill cut the deficit to 21-18, but the Wolverines couldn't overcome the late setback, dropping the second set, 25-20.
UVU responded aggressively to begin the third set, racing to a 7-1 advantage behind three kills and a solo block from Kuresa and two more aces from Tait. The disparity was brief, however, as the Sioux slowly worked their way back into the set, pulling within two at 16-14.
Refusing to surrender the lead, UVU pieced together a crucial 6-2 run behind two kills from Heaps and a couple blocks from Clement that made the score 22-16. Two big kills from Heaps and Kuresa would eventually clinch the third set for the Wolverines, 25-19.
Kuresa paced UVU with four kills in the frame while Clement added three. Clement also combined with Campbell for two block assists in the third-set win.
The Wolverines maintained their theme of fast starts throughout the match to begin the fourth set, sprinting out to a swift 10-2 lead. Highlighting the run were two kills from Campbell, a block and a kill from Clement, and kills from Heaps, Kuresa, and Lindsay Barker.
UND cut the lead to three at 12-9, but an 8-1 run, powered by three kills from Barker, two more from Kuresa, and a big block assist from Barker and Clement grew the lead to 20-10. Again, UND pulled themselves to within four at 22-18, but Clement and Heaps each added a kill down the stretch to secure the set, the match, and the championship for the Wolverines, 25-19.
Barker led the way with five kills in the decisive set and Campbell, Heaps, Kuresa, and Clement each registered three. Campbell also delivered 12 assists while Tait's ace gave her a season-high seven in the match.
Campbell finished the match with a career-high 10 kills, 36 assists, and 12 digs to give her a rare triple-double. Clement had a big night on Senior Night as well, smashing 13 kills to go along with five block assists. All in all, the Wolverines turned in a complete team effort in their championship-clinching performance.
"Everybody had to step up tonight," said Atoa, "and everybody did their part in the win. We dug some balls and played some good defense. Brookelyn had a nice match but all of our girls stepped up and did what they needed to do."
With the win, UVU closed out the season with a three game win streak and finished with a solid 14-2 home record.
With the regular season now over, UVU will return to Grand Forks, N.D., next weekend as it attempts to bring home its first-ever GWC Tournament Championship. The tourney is set to run Nov. 17-19 at the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center on the campus of the University of North Dakota. As regular season champs, the Wolverines have earned a bye through the first round and will face a yet-to-be-determined opponent in Friday's semifinal.
James Warnick is an assistant sports information director at Utah Valley University.
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