UVU volleyball: Utah Valley surrenders two-set lead, falls in five against Idaho
Shane Truskolaski, UVU Athletics
OREM — Utah Valley University raced out to a 2-0 advantage Thursday night but couldn't find the winning formula as it ultimately fell to Idaho, 3-2 (25-16, 25-19, 23-25, 17-25, 12-15) at the PE Building. Senior setter Brookelyn Hall and freshman outside hitter Nakisha Willden recorded double-doubles in the loss.
Willden posted a new season high of 15 kills to go along with 12 digs for her second career double-double, while Hall's 54 assists and 12 digs marked her sixth of the season. Fifty-four assists also stand as Hall's best individual mark on the year.
With sets one and two secured with relative ease, UVU (13-12, 7-3) looked to be well on its way to its eighth WAC victory and fifth consecutive win by sweep. But Idaho (13-8, 6-3) emerged from the intermission rejuvenated and discovered the form that had challenged the Wolverines so greatly in another five-set marathon between the two squads earlier this season.
UVU emerged victorious on that September evening in Moscow but could not replicate the result as Idaho claimed the final three sets to grab a dramatic victory. Powering the Vandals were 11 kills apiece from Jessica Hastriter and Katelyn Peterson. The duo delivered 16 kills over the final three sets.
UVU looked on its game early, using a pair of 7-1 runs to open the match with a 25-16 win in set one. A balanced effort in the attack saw four Wolverines finish with three kills as Katie Fritzler, Hall, Kalani Norris and Cassie Wahlin each smashed a trio. Hall also led the frame with 12 assists. Four team blocks helped limit Idaho to a -.120 attack percentage as the Vandals suffered through nine attack errors.
In set two, Utah Valley maintained a slim lead much of the way, creating a bit of breathing room early with a 5-1 run. Kills from Hall and Norris powered the spurt that put the Wolverines ahead, 13-8. UVU maintained its advantage from there, as the lead never dipped below four points the rest of the way to a 25-19 victory. Willden was huge for the Wolverines in the set, posting seven kills — five of which came over the last six points. Hall added another dozen assists, and Lauren Stringham had her hand in three UVU blocks.
Unfortunately, the convincing decisions in the first sets wouldn't be enough for UVU as it split the season series with the Vandals. The Wolverines looked to have a chance to close things out in the third set, scoring four consecutive points to take an 18-16 advantage late. But back came Idaho, scoring nine of the frame's final 14 points to stay alive and prepare the stage for the fateful final sets.
For the second consecutive match, Wahlin set a new career best for kills, posting 14 on Thursday night. The junior had set a career mark with 13 last Saturday in a 3-0 defeat of New Mexico State.
Fellow junior and libero McKenna Tait totaled 26 digs on the night, her second-best output of the season.
Utah Valley now turns its attention to another steep test — a Saturday showdown with Seattle University. UVU and SU had entered Thursday's matches with a share of first place in the WAC standings, but after both suffered losses, the Wolverines and Redhawks will now fight for the upper hand as the final stretch of the conference season approaches. Saturday's match gets underway at 7 p.m. at the PE Building.
Kellen Hiser is an assistant sports information director at Utah Valley University. For more information on Wolverine athletics, visit WolverineGreen.com.