TUCSON, Ariz. - The Utah Valley University volleyball team handed Eastern Kentucky its first loss of the season Friday evening as the Wolverines defeated the Colonels 3-1 (25-21, 28-26, 21-25, 33-31) in the opener of the Arizona Desert Classic.
UVU (2-3) won the first two sets of the contest, but the previously undefeated Colonels (4-1) battled back by taking the third. The Wolverines then withstood a late push by EKU in an epic fourth frame to win the match three sets to one.
"I felt like we played OK tonight," head coach Sam Atoa said. "We took a nice lead there in both the third and fourth sets, but we kind of fumbled those away with some mistakes and errors. The girls were able to stay composed, however, and get some key stops at the net down the stretch in that final set to help us pull it out."
Macky Treanor, the reigning WAC Player of the Week, and Gilbert, Ariz., native Brookelyn Hall led UVU in the contest as they each posted double-doubles. Treanor recorded a new career-high with 21 kills and 12 digs while Hall tallied a season-best 43 assists and 15 digs. Kalani Norris and Lauren Strigham too had solid matches for the Wolverines as Norris also posted double digits in kills with 17 and Stringham led the way in blocks with seven.
In the middle of a close opening set, UVU used a 6-1 run to break a 14-14 tie. Hall spurred the rally with a kill and an ace. The run proved critical for the Wolverines as they maintained the lead the rest of the set.
In a second set that saw 10 ties, Utah Valley took the largest lead of the frame at 19-15 following a block by Treanor and Katie Fritzler. EKU answered late though as it tied the score at 24-all following a kill from Ashley Edmond, who led the Colonels in the match with a team-high 18 kills. UVU later capitalized on a couple of EKU attack errors and finished off the frame on a service ace from Mesa, Ariz., native Kelcee Munk. Norris and Treanor led the Wolverines in the set with seven and five respective kills.
UVU held a four-point advantage in the third set, at 11-7, following a kill by Cassie Wahlin but back came the Colonels as they later managed to tie the score for the first time at 17-all. Back-to-back points by EKU then gave it its first lead of the frame at 19-17. Consecutive kills by Trenor and Norris then brought the Wolverines back within one at 21-20, but Eastern Kentucky managed to finish off the set by scoring four of the final five points.
The Wolverines jumped out to a large 16-9 advantage in the fourth set, but EKU struck back by scoring five straight points to pull within two. UVU then pulled back ahead by four late in the set at 22-18 following a Treanor kill, but EKU prolonged the set by scoring six of the next eight points. As play continued past 25, the teams went back-and-forth from there until Norris pounded home a kill. Hall followed it up with a crucial service ace, and Fritzler and Munk blocked EKU's final attack attempt to seal the victory for UVU.
Treanor, Hall and Stringham paced the Wolverines in the final set. Treanor posted eight kills in the frame while Hall had 15 assists and Stringham added five block assists.
As a team, Utah Valley outhit the Colonels .222 to .155 in the match. The Wolverines also recorded five more total blocks in the contest than EKU.
UVU will conclude play at the Arizona Desert Classic on Saturday with a pair of matches. The Wolverines will face Butler at 1:30 p.m. MT and host the host Wildcats at 8 p.m. MT. Live video as well as live stats for both contests can be followed by visiting Arizona's website.
"Those will be two tough matches for us on Saturday. Both teams are playing very well," Atoa said. "We're going to need to challenge ourselves to be quite a bit better and be a more disciplined team. I think if we can do those things as well as play at a higher level that we'll be OK."
James Warnick is an assistant sports information director at Utah Valley University. For more information about Wolverine athletics, visit www.WolverineGreen.com.