UVU volleyball: Wolverines fall at No. 16 BYU to close season

By Kellen Hiser

For the Deseret News

Published: Tuesday, Nov. 20 2012 9:11 p.m. MST

Senior Erica Nish (center) goes up for a hit. She led UVU with seven kills in her final collegiate competition

Shane Truskolaski, UVU Athletics

PROVO, Utah – The Utah Valley University women's volleyball team completed its 2012 campaign Tuesday night, falling 3-0 (10-25, 15-25, 16-25) to 16th-ranked BYU at Smith Fieldhouse.

"We struggled to find a rhythm early and our passing didn't allow us to stay in system and utilize our hitters," UVU head coach Sam Atoa said. "But I was proud of our determination to stick in there and fight, especially in the third set."

UVU (18-9) entered its final regular season match with the Great West Conference tournament title already under its belt. The Wolverines hosted the conference championships last weekend and never dropped a set over two matches to claim their first-ever tournament title.

"We've had a great year and we're going to continue to be proud of what we've accomplished," Atoa added. "This one loss to the 16th-ranked team in the country won't diminish anything."

Eleven Wolverines saw the floor in the match, led by seven kills from senior Erica Nish. Playing in her final collegiate match, Nish was named the Great West Conference Tournament MVP last week. Lindsay Morrell followed with six kills and Kalani Norris delivered seven. Lauren Stringham led the match with seven total blocks.

BYU (26-3) led from start to finish in set one, opening the match with a 10-3 run. The Cougars could do no wrong in the opening frame, hitting at a remarkable .481 percentage while digging out 20 balls. The Wolverines did piece together a 4-0 run late in the set, getting kills from Nish and Jolley. But the spurt came too late as UVU dropped game one, 10-25.

UVU found a rhythm in the middle of set two, piecing together a 5-0 run behind a kill from Stringham and a pair more from Norris. Unfortunately, the spurt came on the heels of a 17-4 BYU rally to begin the frame. The Wolverines hung tight for the remainder of the game, but couldn't overcome the early deficit, dropping the second game 15-25.

Nish posted four kills in the second set to lead UVU, followed by three from Norris. Lauren Stringham notched a set-high three block assists.

Set three was a story of exchanged blows as the Cougars jumped out to a quick 5-1 lead to begin the set. But with kills from Stringham, Nish and Morrell, the Wolverines were quick to respond with a 4-1 rally of their own.

Another Cougar rally shot the home team out front 12-6, but UVU again crafted an answer. Stringham and Nish again delivered kills, and the Wolverines benefited from a handful of BYU errors to climb all the way back to within one at 13-12.

But it was another extended BYU spurt that dealt the decisive blow. With only one point separating the two teams, the Cougars conjured a 6-1 run to gain control late and finish the match with a 25-16 win in game three.

BYU, co-champions of the West Coast Conference, now await Selection Sunday where its seeding for the NCAA tournament will be announced.

"We've got to give credit to BYU," Atoa said. "They're doing some really good things right now as a group, they're playing well, and they'll be a difficult team to contend against at the NCAA tournament."

Slated to join the Western Athletic Conference in 2013, UVU volleyball finished its Great West era on top by winning its second consecutive regular season title and its first-ever GWC tournament title this season. The Wolverines can now set their sights on future WAC hardware and the accompanying NCAA automatic postseason bid.

Kellen Hiser is sports information assistant at Utah Valley University. For more information on Wolverine athletics, visit WolverineGreen.com.

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