FRESNO, Calif. - After sweeping Sacramento State earlier in the day, the Utah Valley University volleyball team concluded the Fresno State Classic with a five-set come-from-behind victory over Fresno State Saturday at the Save Mart Center (25-21, 18-25, 15-25, 25-17, 15-11). The victory gave the Wolverines a 2-1 record at the tournament this weekend and improved their season mark to 4-4.
McKenna Tait led the way for UVU with a career and match-high 17 kills. She also tallied her second double-double in as many days as she added 11 digs. Erica Nish also notched double figures in the kills for the match as she recorded a season-high 13 kills, while Lauren Stringham came up huge from the net with a season-high 11 block assists, a solo block and nine kills. Setter Brookelyn Hall too produced another double-double with 44 assists and 10 digs, and Patti Hatch secured the back row with a team-high 14 digs and a service ace.
"We did a great job of putting together a game plan that we stuck with. At certain times we didn't do as well as we would've like, but we executed when it mattered and especially in the fifth set," Wolverine volleyball coach Sam Atoa said.
Hall and Hatch were named to the All-Tournament Team for UVU after Hall finished with 102 assists (7.85 assist/set average), 31 digs, 13 kills, nine block assists, a solo block and five service aces for the weekend, while Hatch recorded 42 digs (3.23 dig/set average).
"The girls all played great but Brookelyn and Patti were also consistent and were able to keep us where we needed to be," Atoa said. "I was happy for them and I was happy for our team for playing a great tournament."
A service ace from Hall and a kill from Katie Fritzler helped the Wolverines jump out to an early 4-0 lead in the opening set. The Bulldogs (5-4) then pulled within a point after scoring four of the next five points to make it a 5-4 score.
With Fresno State later leading the first set 17-16, Utah Valley scored seven unanswered points to take a commanding 23-17 advantage. Stringham led the way during the rally by pounding home two kills, as well as adding a block assist. Bailey Farris helped the Wolverines finish off the set a couple points later with a kill of her own. Tait led UVU in the opening set with four kills, while Stringham added two kills of her own and four block assists.
The Bulldogs bounced back in the second set as they quickly took a six-point lead, at 10-4. The Wolverines got back in the frame by scoring nine of the next 12 points to tie the score at 13-all. After a kill from Farris retied the set at 16-16, Fresno State took control by scoring nine of the next 11 points to take the frame and tie the match at 1-1.
In the third set, UVU stayed close with Fresno State in the beginning. The Bulldogs then pulled ahead in the middle of the frame as they built a 16-9 advantage. The Wolverines tried to comeback, but the deficit was too large as Fresno State took 2-1 lead in the match with a 25-15 win.
In a must win fourth set, the Wolverines took a 9-8 lead after back-to-back kills from Tait and an ace from Patti Hatch. UVU extended its lead to 15-10 after a couple more kills and an ace from Tait. The Wolverines ran away with the set from there as they took the frame by a score of 25-17 to force a winner-take-all fifth set. Nish led UVU in the set with five kills, while Tait added four. The Wolverines also outhit the Bulldogs .353 to .154 in the frame.
Utah Valley took the upper hand in the fifth set as it erupted out to a large 10-2 lead over the home team. Nish and Stringham sparked the key run for the Wolverines, as Nish had two kills and a block assist and Stringham had two block assists and a solo block. The Bulldogs tried to stage a late comeback as they pulled within three, at 14-11, but UVU put the match away the very next point on a kill from Tait.
In the match UVU recorded 16 team blocks compared to just nine by Fresno State.
Megan Callahan and Maci Murdock led the Bulldogs on the night as they each recorded 15 kills.
Against Sacramento State (4-5), the Wolverines and Hornets traded points until another 5-0 UVU run saw a 15-10 lead become a 20-10 advantage. Kalani Norris smashed a kill in the series while Fritzler delivered a kill and combined with Nish for a block assist.
Fritzler left her mark on the set, combining with Nish again for another block assist, then notching a kill and a service ace in the final five Wolverine points to secure a 25-13 first-set, UVU win.
In set two, the storyline shifted from a series of short runs to that of one large, sustained spurt. With the score knotted at 12-12, the Wolverines caught fire. Following an attack error from Sacramento State, Tait dropped in an ace, and Fritzler blasted a kill, a sequence that would ignite a huge 13-2 rally for UVU.
Fritzler would go on to finish with five kills in the set, as the Wolverines also got kills from Norris and Jaramey Barney in the deciding run. UVU would take set two 25-14.
Facing a 2-0 deficit, the Hornets responded with resiliency in the third set. Trailing for much of the early going, Sacramento State used a 5-0 run of their own to take a 12-10 lead. Jessie Genger had two kills and combined for a block assist during the run.
The Hornet lead grew to as many as four at 17-13, but the Wolverines managed to keep within striking distance. With the set in the balance, UVU got three consecutive kills - one from Cassie Wahlin followed by a pair from Norris - to pull back within one.
From there, the two sides traded blows until the finish. Sacramento State held a 21-20 advantage, but a Hornet error combined with a block from Fritzler and Hall restored the lead to the Wolverines at 22-21. A kill by Hannah Hettinga tied the match at 22, but the next three points went to the Wolverines, punctuated by a service ace from Hall to seal the game and the match, 25-22.
Fritzler posted her second consecutive match with double-digit kills, matching her total from Friday night with 10. Norris added seven while Tait finished with six. The quartet of Hall, Nish, Fritzler and Stringham combined for 11 of UVU's 14 blocks.
The Wolverines will return to the state of Utah and will conclude play at the Utah Classic in Salt Lake City on Sept. 14 with matches against Nevada and Cal Poly. UVU faced the Utes on Aug. 28 and dropped the opener of that tournament in straight sets.
Fresno State Box Score
Sacramento State Box Score
James Warnick is an assistant sports information director at Utah Valley University. For more information about Wolverine athletics, visit www.WolverineGreen.com
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