SALT LAKE CITY - Coach Sam Atoa picked up his 300th career victory at Utah Valley University as the Wolverine volleyball team defeated Nevada Friday morning at the Utah Classic 3-1 (25-16, 26-28, 25-15, 25-23). UVU then went on to defeat Cal Poly later in the day, 3-1 (26-28, 26-24, 25-21, 30-28), in Salt Lake City. The victory was the Wolverines' (6-4) fourth straight.
"We had to work hard for these ones but we did some really good things and I'm happy for our success," Atoa said. "Everybody contributed and made it happen. We still have a lot of work to do but we'll get there."
A couple block assists from the freshmen duo of Bailey Farris and Lauren Stringham and an ace from senior Erica Nish helped the Wolverines jump out to an early 9-3 lead in the opening set versus the Wolf Pack (1-9). Nevada pulled to within four a couple of times, but Utah Valley kept control of the set as it built its lead to as large as eight, at 19-11.
The Wolverines cruised to a 25-16 victory in the first set. Stringham and sophomore McKenna Tait led UVU with three kills apiece, and the Wolverines held an 81 to 51 side-out percentage advantage.
In the second set the Wolf Pack jumped out to an early 8-5 lead, but the Wolverines responded immediately by scoring the next four points to take their first lead of the set at 9-8. Stringham sparked the rally with an ace and a kill.
The second set stayed close from there until UVU managed to score four straight points to take a 22-19 advantage. A block assist from Tait and junior Katie Fritzler and an ace by junior Brookelyn Hall highlighted the Wolverine run. Nevada battled back however and tied the set at 23-all and forced the frame to extra points. After a battle that saw 14 ties and six lead changes, the Wolf Pack ended up evening the match at 1-1 as they took the second set 28-26. Tessa Lea'ea, who finished with a team-high 10 kills, led Nevada with six kills in the frame.
The Wolf Pack continued to play well in the early stages of the third set as they took a quick 5-2 lead, but the Wolverines answered back by scoring six of the next seven points to take an 8-6 advantage of their own. Nish led the way during the run with two blocks and a kill.
A couple of kills from Hall and a solo block from sophomore Jaramey Barney helped UVU extend its lead to 16-10 midway through the set. The Wolverines ran away with the third set from there as they went on to take the set by 10 points and take a 2-1 lead in the match. Barney and Nish led the way as they each had a solo block and three block assists, while Farris also recorded a set-high four kills.
The fourth set remained tight in the early stages, but the Wolverines took a 12-11 lead after back-to-back block assists from Nish and Stringham. With the set tied at 15-15, consecutive block assists from Hall and Stringham and Hall and Fritzler gave the Wolverines a two-point lead.
Later in the fourth, UVU took a 23-20 lead after consecutive kills from sophomore Kalani Norris and Tait. Up 24-23, the Wolverines took the match on another kill from Tait.
Stringham led UVU with a season-high 11 kills, a .500 attack percentage and five block assists. Tait and Farris each tallied nine kills apiece, while Nish led the way at the net with five block assists and a solo block. Hall also played well for UVU as she recorded a match-high 45 assists and three service aces. Junior Patti Hatch led the contest in digs with 16.
As a team, UVU outhit Nevada .218 to .069, and the Wolverines also had 12 team blocks compared to seven by the Wolf Pack.
Later in the day against the Mustangs (1-9), Hall notched her first triple-double of the season as she tallied a match-high 45 assists, a team-high 14 digs and a season-high 10 kills. Farris led the way in kills with 14, while Nish added 12 and Stringham had 10. Stringham also recorded two solo blocks and eight block assists, and Farris also blocked well with five block assists and a solo.
After dropping an extra-point affair in the opening set, the Wolverines jumped out to a quick 5-1 advantage early in the second. The Mustangs battled right back, however, with six unanswered points to take a 7-5 lead of their own. The set went back-and-forth from there as no team led by more than three points the rest of the frame.
With the second set tied at 24-all, Farris helped UVU even the match by scoring the next two points, one by ace and the other by kill, to take the set 26-24. Hall, Farris and Tait all recorded three kills apiece for UVU in the set, while Stringham had four block assists.
The third set stayed close as no team led by more than two points until the Wolverines went up by three at 21-18 after a Cal Poly attack error. The Mustangs cut the deficit to one, at 21-20, but Farris sparked another rally in which the Wolverines scored four of the next five points to take the set 25-21. Farris had two kills and two blocks during the stretch.
With UVU leading 2-1, Cal Poly took control of the fourth set early on as it jumped out to a 10-4 advantage. But the Wolverines quickly came back. An ace from Nish tied the set at 13-all, and a kill by Stringham gave UVU a 14-13 lead.
The Mustangs worked a late 23-19 lead in the fourth, but the Wolverines rallied to score six of the next seven points to take a 25-24 advantage. Play continued from there until a kill from Fritlzer put the Wolverines up 29-28, and a Cal Poly attack error helped UVU take the set and the match. Stringham led the Wolverines in the final frame with six kills. Hall finished right behind her with four.
Atoa, who is in his 14th season as Utah Valley's head coach, now holds a career win-loss record of 301-139.
"You never focus on that stuff (referring to his 300th victory), you focus on the kids and it's fun to be able to embrace what you put together," Atoa said,. "Their success becomes your success as well. We've had a lot of great kids come through the program that have shared the same philosophy and foundation so the credit goes to them."
The Wolverines will be back in action next Tuesday, Sept. 18, when they travel to Cedar City, Utah to take on in-state foe Southern Utah.
Nevada Box Score
Cal Poly 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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