Linsey Craig, UVU Athletics
TUCSON, Ariz. - After opening the Arizona Desert Classic with a 3-1 victory over Eastern Kentucky on Friday evening, the Utah Valley University women's volleyball team dropped a Saturday matinee in straight sets to the Butler Bulldogs (11-25, 22-25, 16-25).
"We're struggling a little bit right now," head coach Sam Atoa said. "We're not able to capitalize on some of the good things that we've been doing and it's been a challenge to be consistent. Those are the things that we need to fix so that we can be successful out on the court."
The Wolverines (2-4) will conclude play at the weekend tournament at the McKale Center in Tucson on Saturday at 8 p.m. MT against host Arizona. Live video and live stats can be followed by visiting Arizona's website.
UVU fell behind early in the opening set to Bulldogs (5-1) of the Big East Conference, who already have wins over Cincinnati and Tennessee so far in 2013, as Butler used a 8-1 spurt to take a quick 13-4 lead. Freshmen Nakisha Willden and Macky Treanor tried to help the Wolverines come back with four and three respective kills in the frame, but the deficit was too large to overcome as the Bulldogs took the opener by 14-points.
Utah Valley got off to another slow start in the second set as the Bulldogs jumped out to an early 11-4 advantage that was capped by a service ace from Morgan Peterson. After an Atoa timeout, the Wolverines started to show some signs of life by scoring nine of the next 10 points to take their first lead of the match at 13-12. Willden led the run with four more kills.
A block from seniors Brookelyn Hall and Katie Fritzler later gave UVU a 17-14 advantage, but Butler answered back by scoring the next four points to take an 18-17 lead of its own. The Wolverines stayed right with the Bulldogs toward the end of the set as BU led by just one at 23-22, but a kill from Erica Stahl followed by a solo block by Mary Striedl gave the Bulldogs the 25-22 victory.
Three consecutive kills from Willden in the early stages of the third set gave the Wolverines a fast 5-2 advantage. But back came the Bulldogs as they quickly evened the score and then used a 6-1 run to take the lead for good. Costly errors hurt Utah Valley down the stretch as Butler took its largest lead of the set at nine on its final point of the match.
Willden led the Wolverines in the contest with a career-high 14 kills and a .481 hitting percentage, while Treanor followed with seven kills, 11 digs, three blocks and an ace. Hall also finished just one dig shy of her second double-double of the season as she tallied 22 assists and nine digs.
"Nakisha (Willden) played well. She came in and passed well and was very aggressive. I'm real proud of her effort and what she did," Atoa said. "I also felt like Katie (Fritzler) exerted herself and did exactly what we asked her to do.
"It's now a matter of getting all seven girls to execute and to do what needs to be done. We absolutely had opportunities in that second set and were playing well but we had crucial errors that really cost us at the end of that one. We've got some good challenges ahead of us and we need to find the right chemistry to put out on the court."
Belle Obert led the Bulldogs with 11 kills and six blocks.
Following Saturday night's match against the Wildcats, UVU will return to Orem to host the Wolverine Classic next weekend. UVU will welcome Idaho State, UC Irvine and in-state foe Utah to the PE Building on Sept. 13-14.
James Warnick is an assistant sports information director at Utah Valley University. For more information about Wolverine athletics, visit www.WolverineGreen.com.