OREM, Utah -- The Utah Valley University volleyball team avenged an earlier season loss to future WAC opponent CSU Bakersfield by defeating the Roadrunners (11-12) in four sets Saturday in Orem (24-26, 25-19, 25-19, 25-17). The victory is the Wolverines' (13-7) sixth consecutive and 16th straight at home.
Reigning Great West Conference Offensive Player of the Week Kalani Norris led UVU with 17 kills and a .306 attack percentage. Katie Fritzler too had a big night for the Wolverines with 10 block assists and eight kills. Erica Nish also added nine blocks and seven kills while Lauren Stringham had eight blocks. As a team UVU recorded 18 total team blocks compared to just seven by CSUB. The Wolverines also out attacked the `Runners .256 to .140.
"It was a good win for us. It felt like we pretty much controlled the entire match, even that first set that we lost. Once we took the lead we were able to finish in this match," UVU head coach Sam Atoa said. "I'm especially pleased with our blocking tonight because it is an area that we've been working on."
UVU came out hot in set one, jumping out to a 5-0 advantage. The Wolverines looked poised to ride the quick start all the way to a game one win, grabbing a 21-16 lead late. But CSUB rallied when it mattered, closing the set on a 10-3 run to claim a surprising 26-24 triumph in the opening frame.
The Wolverines created a 13-6 cushion in the early going of set number two, highlighted by a pair of block assists from Nish and Stringham and back-to-back service aces from McKenna Tait. The Roadrunners responded, though, reeling off eight of the next 11 points to get within 16-14. Still holding the lead at 22-17, UVU was sure to finish the job in the second set, using kills from Fritzler, Nish and Brookelyn Hall to close out a 25-19 win in set two.
With five kills from Norris early on, the Wolverines created some separation midway through the third frame at 15-11. A combined block from Nish and Fritzler then a Lindsay Morrell kill got UVU to 22-16 advantage but again CSUB answered. The Roadrunners kept things interesting, pulling to within 23-19, but it was the Wolverines who found the last points of the set to grab a 2-1 match lead.
Norris had a big third set for UVU, finishing with six kills and a service ace. Morrell added three more kills as the Wolverines limited CSUB to just a .077 attack percentage in the frame.
Looking to wrap things up in four, UVU got a big stretch from Fritzler to start the frame. The junior notched four kills and two block assists in helping the Wolverines to a 14-7 lead. Six of the next eight points went to the visitors as the Roadrunners narrowed the gap to 16-13. But UVU weathered the storm behind four kills from Norris and two blocks from Fritzler and Hall followed the CSUB rally, putting the Wolverines at a commanding 21-13 advantage. A couple kills from Nish highlighted the Wolverines' final points on their way to a match-deciding 25-17 set four victory.
Despite the loss, Debora Araujo and Kelsee Sawyer both topped double figures in kills for the 'Runners as Araujo had 15 and Sawyer recorded 13.
UVU now prepares for the second leg of conference play, welcoming Houston Baptist and Texas-Pan American to Orem next week. The Wolverines, who are currently in first place in the conference standings with a 4-0 record, take the court against HBU Thursday night at 7 p.m. then play host to UTPA in a 1 p.m., Saturday matinee.
UVU opened GWC play against the same two squads at the start of the month, picking up 3-2 wins in both matches down in Texas.
"Something that I've talked to the team about is that our next few matches are against somebody that we've already played this season," added Atoa. "Our job is to be better. We were tonight against Bakersfield and we expect to keep that up."
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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