UVU volleyball: Wolverines win fifth straight with a 3-1 victory over Grand Canyon

By James Warnick

For the Deseret News

Published: Thursday, Nov. 7 2013 11:04 p.m. MST

OREM — After dropping the opening set to Grand Canyon at home Thursday night, Utah Valley bounced back to take the next three for its fifth consecutive victory (22-25, 25-20, 25-22, 25-21). With the win, UVU (18-12, 11-3 WAC) remains in second place in the WAC standings with just two regular season matches left.

"We made it hard on ourselves with so many mistakes, however, we did what we needed to do to get the job done," UVU head volleyball coach Sam Atoa said. "I was real pleased with how Jaramey Barney played tonight. Kalani Norris also added a great hitting performance and Katie Fritzler continues to come through for us as well."

Junior Kalani Norris led the Wolverines in the contest with 16 kills and an even .400 attack percentage. Senior Katie Fritzler was next as she tied a career-high with 12 kills, while junior Jaramey Barney added a career-best nine kills off the bench. Senior setter Brookelyn Hall, the reigning WAC Player of the Week, also tallied her team-leading ninth double-double of the year with 43 assists and 18 digs. Hall also added five blocks and five kills in the victory.

With four service aces in the match, libero McKenna Tait tied the UVU school record for career service aces with 136. The junior from South Jordan, Utah, now finds herself tied atop the record book with Kat Stevens, who played at Utah Valley from 2007-2010. Tait also added a match-high 28 digs from the back row.

"McKenna does just an excellent job for us in anchoring what we do on the back row, both defensively as well as what she does serving," Atoa said.

After falling behind early in the opening set, UVU used a 6-0 run to take a 13-9 lead. The Antelopes (9-16, 3-9 WAC) battled back from there, as they later regained a 16-15 advantage. With GCU leading 22-19 late in the frame, the Wolverines scored back-to-back points to pull within one, but the `Lopes answered as they took the first set by three points.

In a very tightly contest second set that saw 14 ties and six lead changes, Barney helped UVU take a late 22-20 advantage after a trio of kills and a block assist. The Wolverines finished off the set three points later following Norris ace, a Fritzler kill and a GCU attack error. Utah Valley finished the second set on a 6-0 run.

The `Lopes bounced back in the early stages of the third set as they took a quick 8-3 lead. A couple of points later, the Wolverines reeled off six of the next seven points to tie the set at 11-all. No team led by more than two until freshman Nakisha Willden, sophomore Lauren Stringham and Norris each drove home consecutive kills to give Utah Valley a 20-17 advantage. The Wolverines held the momentum from there as they took the frame by three points to take a 2-1 overall advantage.

With the fourth set tied at 16-16, a pair of kills from Barney as well as a `Lope attack error gave UVU a 19-16 advantage. A trifecta of clutch kills from Willden down the stretch along with a final GCU attack error gave UVU the set, 25-21, and the match. Barney led the Wolverines in the final frame with four kills, while Tait added a pair of aces.

Hayleigh Friemoth paced the `Lopes with a match-high 19 kills, while Kristen Johannsen added nine blocks including four solos.

With just two regular season matches remaining, the Wolverines will now be off until Saturday, Nov. 16, when they'll play their final home game of the season against third-place Bakersfield. The match will mark Senior Night as well as UVU's homecoming game. Utah Valley will then close its regular season at first-place New Mexico State on Nov. 21, before heading to the WAC Tournament in Phoenix, Ariz., on Nov. 25-27.

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