OREM — With just two regular season matches remaining, the second-place Utah Valley University volleyball team will play its final home match of the 2013 season Saturday against third-place Bakersfield. Not only will the contest be a crucial WAC match for both teams, but it will also be Senior Night as well as Homecoming for UVU.
Saturday will mark the final home match for two Utah Valley seniors, as Brookelyn Hall and Katie Fritzler will each play the final contest of their careers that evening in the PE Building. Posters of Hall and Fritzler will be handed out to spectators, and the duo will also be honored at center court before the match begins.
UVU (18-12, 11-3 WAC) will enter Saturday's contest 1.5 matches back of first-place New Mexico State (19-10, 13-2 WAC) in the WAC standings, but the Wolverines control their own destiny the rest of the way. A win over CSUB (17-11, 9-4 WAC) on Saturday night coupled with a victory at NM State in the season finale on Nov. 21 would give the Wolverines and Aggies a share of the conference title as both squads would finish with 13-3 records. UVU would hold the tiebreaker for the conference tournament, however, having beat the Aggies twice during the season and would enter the WAC Tournament as the top seed.
The Wolverines are hot as of late having won five consecutive matches and seven of their last eight but haven't played since Nov. 7, when they defeated Grand Canyon in four sets. In that match against the `Lopes, UVU bounced back nicely after dropping the first set to beat GCU, 3-1 (22-25, 25-20, 25-22, 25-21). Prior to last Thursday's victory, Utah Valley defeated Kansas City and Chicago State in four sets on the road the previous weekend.
Utah Valley hasn't lost since Oct. 24, when Idaho outlasted the Wolverines in five sets. In fact, two of UVU's three conference losses have been in five sets. The other, however, was a straight set defeat at Bakersfield on Oct. 10.
Junior outside hitter Kalani Norris leads the Wolverines in kills on the year with 311 and posted a team-high 16 against GCU on Nov. 7. Sophomore middle blocker Lauren Stringham is tops on the squad in blocks with 141, and her 1.29 per set average is good enough to rank her 37th nationally. Junior libero McKenna Tait not only leads the WAC in service aces with 48 but also comes in a 21st in the nation in that category with a 0.44 per set average. Tait will enter Saturday's contest needing just one ace to become Utah Valley's all-time career service ace leader as she is currently tied atop the school's record book with 136 with Kat Stevens (2007-10). The senior setter Hall, who recently became UVU's all-time career assist leader, leads the Wolverines in assists (1,052) and hitting percentage (.310), and her 9.56 assist per set average is good enough for third in the conference.
As a team, UVU is second in the WAC in opponent hitting percentage (.129) and third in blocks (2.75 per set average).
The Roadrunners will come to Orem just a match and a half behind the Wolverines in the conference standings with a 9-4 league mark. Bakersfield is coming off a non-conference loss to Loyola Marymount at home on Thursday evening, 3-1. Despite the setback, CSUB is red hot as of late as it has won nine of its last 11 matches. The `Runners started the streak on Oct. 10 by sweeping UVU (25-21, 25-18, 25-17) in Bakersfield.
Debora Araujo leads the Roadrunners and the WAC in kills (402), kill per set average (3.87) and points (454). Molly O'Hagan paces CSUB in hitting percentage (.337), while Fernanda Goncalves leads the WAC in assists with an average of 10.17 per set. As a team, Bakersfield leads the conference kills (14.04 per set) and assists (13.38 per set).
The Wolverines will be looking to split the season series with Bakersfield on Saturday. Despite suffering the setback to CSUB in Bakersfield, Calif., on Oct. 10, UVU holds a 7-3 all-time advantage of the `Runners. Utah Valley is also 5-1 all-time against Bakersfield on its home court.
Up next for the Wolverines
UVU will close its regular season at New Mexico State on Thursday, Nov. 21. The matchup has the potential to determine the conference champion. The Wolverines will then head to Phoenix, Ariz., on Nov. 25-27, for the WAC Tournament. With a win over Bakersfield on Saturday, Utah Valley will secure at least the two seed and receive a first round bye at the conference tournament.
James Warnick is an assistant sports information director at Utah Valley University. For more information about Wolverine athletics, visit www.WolverineGreen.com.