Linsey Craig, UVU Athletics
PHOENIX — After having its three-match winning streak snapped at Bakersfield on Thursday, Utah Valley rebounded Saturday night by sweeping Grand Canyon at Antelope Gym in Phoenix (25-12, 25-14, 25-22). With the victory, the Wolverines improve to 11-10 overall and 5-2 in the WAC.
"We really struggled the other night at Bakersfield," head coach Sam Atoa said. "Sometimes it's hard to respond after a loss but the girls did just that tonight. I'm very proud of them and how they were able to stick to the gameplan and execute out on the court."
Sophomore Lauren Stringham led UVU on the night with nine kills and four blocks, while senior Katie Fritzler added six kills and a match-high six blocks. Three players also chipped in five kills apiece for the Wolverines in juniors Kalani Norris and Cassie Wahlin and freshman Nakisha Willden. Norris also chipped in 11 digs, while Wahlin added nine.
"This was a team effort," Atoa said. "I felt like we executed both our serving and passing very well and that we controlled what we did at the net on both the defensive and offensive sides."
As a team, the Wolverines recorded 10 more total blocks than the Antelopes (7-10, 1-4 WAC) in the match (11-1). UVU also outhit GCU .206 to .016.
Up just 8-6 in the opening set, Utah Valley used a 7-1 run to take a commanding 15-7 lead. Fritzler led the spurt for the Wolverines with two kills and two blocks.
UVU held the momentum the rest of the first set as it stretched its lead to as many as 13 points to take the opener, 25-12. The Wolverines capped the first frame on a 4-0 run, which featured two kills from Stringham, one from senior Brookelyn Hall and a block assist from Stringham and Hall.
The Wolverines took a 15-8 advantage in the second set following back-to-back block assists from Fritzler and Norris, and Fritzler and Hall. The `Lopes later made it a five-point game at 16-11, but UVU finished off the set by outscoring GCU, 9-3, to take the second set by 11 points.
Grand Canyon finally got going in the third set as it jumped out to a 10-3 advantage over the Wolverines. Utah Valley quickly closed the gap, however, by scoring eight of the next 10 points to trail by just one at 12-11. Hall and Norris delivered service aces for UVU during the stretch.
GCU then countered in the third set with a 7-2 run to take a 19-13 lead, but the Wolverines answered back with a 6-0 spurt of their own to tie the score at 19-all. UVU then scored five of the next seven points to take a 24-21 match-point lead, and it finished off the sweep two points later on a GCU attack error.
Hall and junior McKenna Tait also had big matches for the Wolverines as Hall recorded a match-high 29 assists, eight digs, four kills and four blocks, and Tait added a match-high 21 digs.
Shannon Dugan led the `Lopes with nine kills and 11 digs.
The contest marked UVU's first-ever meeting against its fellow new WAC counterpart.
The Wolverines will now return to the state of Utah for an in-state matchup at Utah State on Tuesday night. The contest will mark UVU's first non-conference match since Sept. 21. Following Tuesday's match, the Wolverines will return to conference play at home against Texas-Pan American on Thursday, Oct. 17, and first-place New Mexico State on Saturday, Oct. 19.
James Warnick is an assistant sports information director at Utah Valley University. For more information about Wolverine athletics, visit www.WolverineGreen.com.