OREM, Utah — After taking last week off, the Utah Valley University volleyball team concludes conference play this weekend when it travels across the country to take on NJIT on Thursday and Chicago State on Saturday. The matches will be crucial for the Wolverines as they are currently tied atop the conference standings with Houston Baptist.
Thursday's contest against the Highlanders will begin at 7 p.m. ET/5 p.m. MT and will be played at the Fleisher Athletic Center in Newark, N.J. UVU will then head to the Windy City to conclude Great West Conference play Saturday at 1 p.m. CT/12 p.m. MT against the Cougars at the Jacoby Dickens Center.
Live stats and live video will be available for Thursday's match by visiting NJITHighlanders.com. Live stats can also be followed during Saturday's matinee at GoCSUCougars.com.
The Wolverines enter the week with a 14-8 overall record and a 5-1 clip in conference play. UVU has won seven of its last eight matches, and its lone setback during the stretch was to Houston Baptist on Oct. 25.
UVU has already defeated NJIT and Chicago State this season as it held on to top the Highlanders 3-2 in Orem on Oct. 13 and swept the Cougars at home on Oct. 19.
Sophomore outside hitter Kalani Norris netted a career high in kills in the five-set victory against NJIT with 21. Freshman middle blocker Lauren Stringham also had a solid match that night as she finished one block shy of a double-double with 12 kills and nine block assists. Junior setter Brookelyn Hall also notched one of her 10 double-doubles on the season with 44 assists and 14 digs.
UVU used more of a balanced attack to sweep past CSU earlier this season as 12 Wolverines saw action that night. Senior middle blocker Erica Nish led the way with nine kills, and Stringham led at the net with five blocks.
For the season, Nish leads UVU in kills with 173, while her teammate Norris leads the way in kill per set average at 2.41. Stringham is tops on the team in blocks with 122 and is ranked first in the conference and 21st nationally with a 1.40 block per set average.
About NJIT — The Highlanders are 11-14 overall and in third place in the GWC standings with a 3-4 conference record. NJIT is coming off a five-set road win over Texas-Pan American on Monday and have won three of their last four contests.
Janet Snell leads NJIT in kills with 276 and a 2.76 kill per set average. Valerie Carroll is tops on the Highlanders' roster in blocks with 74 and a 0.73 block per set average.
The Wolverines lead the all-time series 9-1 over NJIT. Thursday will mark the 11th all-time meeting between the two clubs.
About Chicago State — The Cougars are 2-27 overall this season and winless in conference play at 0-6. CSU has dropped 21 consecutive matches but nearly defeated Western Illinois on Tuesday as it fell in a tightly contested five-set battle (19-25, 25-23, 20-25, 25-19, 14-16). Chicago State will host UTPA on Thursday before wrapping up its regular season Saturday against UVU.
Alyssa Podwell and Sydne Van Munster lead CSU in kills with 186 and 171, respectively. Van Munster is also tops on the squad in kill per set average with a 2.06 clip and in blocks with 60.
Saturday will be the 12th all-time meeting between the Wolverines and Cougars with UVU holding a perfect 11-0 advantage.
Up Next for the Wolverines — UVU will return home to host the 2012 Great West Conference Women's Volleyball Tournament Nov. 16-17 at the PE Building. The Wolverines will enter the tournament no lower than the No. 2 seed and will open play in the semis Nov. 16 at either 5 p.m. or 7.
James Warnick is an assistant sports information director at Utah Valley University. For more information about Wolverine athletics, visit www.WolverineGreen.com.