UVU volleyball: Utah Valley welcomes Grand Canyon to town Thursday

By James Warnick

For the Deseret News

Published: Wednesday, Nov. 6 2013 6:57 p.m. MST

OREM — After picking up two more Western Athletic Conference victories on the road over the weekend, the Utah Valley University volleyball team returns home to face Grand Canyon on Thursday night.

The contest will mark UVU's second to last home match of the season and will begin at 7 p.m. at the PE Building. Live video as well as live stats can be followed free of charge by visiting the UVU volleyball schedule page.

The Wolverines, who sit in second place in the WAC standings with a 10-3 league record, will be looking for their fifth straight victory Thursday evening. Utah Valley will enter play just one match back of first-place New Mexico State (11-2) with just three regular season contests remaining. UVU has been solid as of late as it has won six of its last seven matches and 15 of its last 19.

Over the weekend, Utah Valley made the trek to the Midwest and picked up two four-set victories. UVU opened the trip by defeating Kansas City on Saturday (22-25, 25-18, 25-20, 25-21) and Chicago State on Monday (19-25, 25-14, 25-12, 25-17). After dropping the opening set in both matches, the Wolverines bounced back by winning the next three to win each contest.

Senior setter Brookelyn Hall was named the WAC Player of the Week on Monday after she became UVU's all-time leader in career assists in Saturday's victory at UMKC. The four-year starter for the Wolverines now holds the school's assist record with 4,139, as well as the record for total sets played with 436. She also sits just three matches back of becoming Utah Valley's record holder in career matches played.

Hall picked up her first WAC Player of the Week award after recording a match-high 48 assists and a career-high 18 digs for her seventh double-double of the season Saturday. In Monday's win over Chicago State, she then turned in her team-leading eighth double-double of the campaign with 36 assists and 15 digs. Hall also added five blocks and four kills in the win over the Cougars.

Sophomore middle blocker Lauren Stringham too had a big match against CSU on Monday, as she put up 10 kills and nine blocks. Junior Kalani Norris and freshman Nakisha Willden led the Wolverines in kills in the contest with 12 apiece, while junior libero McKenna Tait paced the squad in digs with 20. Tait also added an ace in the match, as she'll enter Thursday's match just four back of the school record of 136 that is held by Kat Stevens (2007-10).

Norris leads UVU in kills on the season with 295, while Hall is tops in attack percentage (.308) and assists (9.52 per set average). Stringham paces the squad in blocks as well as ranks second in the league with her 1.30 block per set average, while Tait leads the WAC in aces and ranks 25th nationally (0.42 per set average).

As a team, Utah Valley ranks third in the conference in hitting percentage (.218), blocks (2.41 per set average) and service aces (1.28).

About Grand Canyon

GCU will come to Orem for the first time in program history on Thursday as the `Lopes are also playing their inaugural season in the WAC. Grand Canyon, which is currently making the transition from Division II to Division I this season, is 9-15 overall and in seventh place in the conference standings with a 3-8 league record. The `Lopes will come to Orem having dropped four of their last five matches.

Kaitlyn Ausmus leads the Antelopes in kills with 225 (2.65 per set average), while Lanie Muys is tops on club in blocks with 63 (0.72 per set average). Libero Mackenzie Phelps paces GCU in digs as well as the WAC with an average of 5.47 per set.

Utah Valley will look to sweep the season series over GCU on Thursday after it previously defeated the `Lopes, 3-0, in Phoenix on Oct. 12. The Wolverines will also look to improve to a perfect 2-0 all-time against Grand Canyon. Despite being ineligible for postseason competition this season, the Antelopes will host the 2013 WAC Volleyball Tournament on Nov. 25-27 at the GCU Arena in Phoenix.

Up next for the Wolverines

With just two more regular season matches remaining, UVU will remain home to take on Bakersfield in its homecoming match on Saturday, Nov. 16. The match will also mark Senior Night as Hall and senior middle blocker Katie Fritzler will be honored prior to the 7 p.m. first serve. The Wolverines will then close their 2013 regular season at NM State on Thursday, Nov. 21.

James Warnick is an assistant sports information director at Utah Valley University. For more information about Wolverine athletics, visit www.WolverineGreen.com.