UVU volleyball: Utah Valley begins crucial home stand this weekend
OREM - The Utah Valley University volleyball team will begin a crucial five-match home stand against Western Athletic Conference foes Texas-Pan American and New Mexico State this weekend. The Wolverines will first welcome UTPA to the PE Building on Thursday and first-place NM State on Saturday.
Both matches will start at 7 p.m., and live stats as well as live video for each will be available by visiting Utah Valley's athletic website.
UVU, which is coming off of a three-set defeat at Utah State on Tuesday night (12-25, 18-25, 15-25), will enter Thursday's match with an 11-11 overall record and a 5-2 clip in WAC play. Prior to the loss at Utah State, the Wolverines had won nine of their last 11 including splitting two WAC contests on the road last week. Utah Valley opened the trip by falling to Bakersfield in straight sets last Thursday (21-25, 18-25, 17-25) but bounced back nicely by sweeping Grand Canyon on Saturday (25-12, 25-14, 25-22).
"Our loss to Utah State doesn't affect our conference goals. We were hoping to keep our momentum going that we sustained on Saturday into this week but we weren't the better team on Tuesday," head coach Sam Atoa said. "We've recommitted ourselves to a couple of things to become a better team come Thursday."
Despite suffering the loss to USU on Tuesday, senior setter Brookelyn Hall filled up the box score for the Wolverines in the match with 20 assists, nine digs, four kills and four digs. Junior libero McKenna Tait too played well as she added 12 digs and a service ace, while juniors Kalani Norris and Cassie Wahlin as well as freshman Nakisha Willden chipped in five kills apiece.
UVU will enter this weekend's critical matches in a tie for second place in the WAC standings and just a game and a half behind New Mexico State.
Overall, Norris leads the Wolverines in kills with 225, while freshman Macky Treanor is tops in kill per set average (3.46) and attack percentage (.281). Sophomore Lauren Stringham paces the team in blocks with her 1.16 block per set average, while Hall is tops in assists (9.16). Tait not only leads UVU and the entire WAC in service aces with 36, but her 0.44 ace per set average is good enough for 24th in the nation.
In WAC-only competition, Norris leads UVU in kills with 84 and a 3.11 kill per set average, while Stringham is tops in hitting percentage (.270) and blocks (1.37 per set average).
About Texas-Pan American
Thursday will mark Utah Valley and UTPA's (11-11, 1-5 WAC) second match of the season after the two previously met up on Sept. 30 in Edinburg, Texas. In the earlier meeting, the Wolverines concluded a long seven-match road swing and their three-match WAC-opening road trip by sweeping the Broncs (25-9, 25-11, 25-23). UTPA was picked to finish seventh in its first season of competition in the WAC this year.
The Broncs are led by the one-two punch of Haley Durham and Maria Kliefoth. Durham paces UTPA in kills with a 2.19 per set average, while Kliefoth comes in right behind her at 2.18. Durham also leads the Broncs in blocks (0.94 per set average), while Kliefoth is tops in attack percentage (.292).
Thursday will mark the 24th all-time meeting between the Wolverines and Broncs with UVU holding a commanding 22-1 series advantage. UVU has also won 18 straight contests against UTPA and is a perfect 12-0 all-time in Orem.
About New Mexico State
New Mexico State (11-8) is the only undefeated team remaining in the WAC as it enters the weekend a perfect 6-0 in conference play. The Aggies were picked to win the league this season after taking home the WAC Tournament Championship last season. NM State concluded its 2012 campaign by falling to BYU in the NCAA Tournament.
Preseason all-conference selection Desiree Scott leads the Aggies and ranks second in the WAC in hitting (.379) and blocks (1.24 per set average), while Lauren Loerch is tops in kills (2.74 per set average).
Saturday's meeting will mark the first all-time contest between the two. The Wolverines and Aggies will meet up again on the final day of the regular season (Nov. 18) in Las Cruces, N.M.
Up next for the Wolverines
Utah Valley will continue its five-match home stand against Idaho and Seattle U next week. The Wolverines will welcome the Vandals to town next Thursday, Oct. 24, while the Redhawks will visit Orem on Saturday, Oct. 26. UVU will then close its home stand and non-conference slate against Southern Utah on Oct. 28.
James Warnick is an assistant sports information director at Utah Valley University. For more information about Wolverine athletics, visit www.WolverineGreen.com.