OREM, Utah – The Utah Valley University women's volleyball team had its current six-match winning streak and a 16-match home winning streak snapped at the hands of Houston Baptist on Thursday night at the PE Building. UVU fell in four sets (25-15, 17-25, 17-25, 21-25).
"Houston Baptist played very well," UVU head coach Sam Atoa said. "They sided out at a high percentage and we didn't. We stole one from them down in Houston and they came in and stole one from us. We'll get back in practice and figure out how to execute better."
After cruising to a first set win, the Wolverines (13-8, 4-1 GWC) dropped the next two by identical score lines, needing a fourth set victory to stay alive.
UVU broke a 7-7 tie early in the pivotal frame with five straight points to take a 12-7 lead. Kalani Norris sent in two service aces during the spurt, while Katie Fritzler and Nish each delivered kills.
The next run belonged to HBU (17-10, 5-1 GWC), though, with the visitors stringing together a 7-0 run to retake the lead at 14-12. The Huskies kept the lead the rest of the way, answering UVU point-for-point to maintain a three point advantage most of the way. A kill from Lauren Stringham pulled the Wolverines within 22-21, but it was all HBU from there, taking a 25-21 win in the fourth set that sealed the match and snapped the Wolverines' home winning streak in the process.
Senior Erica Nish turned in a nice match for the home side, finishing with 16 kills. Norris also finished in double-digit kills at 12. Setter Brookelyn Hall finished with 39 kills, while McKenna Tait led the match in digs at 18.
HBU had two players finish in double-digit kills, as Jasmine Casey and Heather Leaverton registered 16 and 13, respectively.
UVU was the first side to gain separation in set one, using a 7-1 run to turn an early 6-6 tie into a 13-7 advantage. Norris delivered two kills to power the spurt, while Hall and Stringham each added one. The Wolverines took their largest lead of the set at 20-10 after stringing together a 6-1 run behind two of Nish's three kills in the set and a Norris ace. UVU had little trouble closing from there, grabbing a 25-15 game one win.
HBU was limited to only a .053 hitting percentage in the opening frame.
A 5-1 run followed by a 4-1 run put the Huskies out in front to begin game two, 14-9. Gaffney was a force for the visitors early on, delivering two kills and two blocks. HBU never relinquished the lead once having claimed it, winning set two 25-17. The Wolverines were at their closest at 14-11 but failed to pull closer than four points from there.
Nish put up a set-high seven kills in the frame, but with only a .125 attack percentage as a team, UVU could not dig itself from the early deficit.
The Wolverines found themselves in a 16-7 hole midway through set three as the Huskies rattled off a 7-1 spurt early in the game. Needing a big rally to stay alive in the set, UVU scored eight of the next 11 points, getting a pair of kills from Morrell and Nish to make the score 19-15. But with such a sizable lead to work with, the Huskies weathered the storm and claimed the third set 25-17 to set the stage for the decisive fourth set.
UVU honored former volleyball coach and Hall of Famer Lori Richards during the match as part of its annual Pink for a Purpose campaign. Richards coached the Wolverines for 18 years and is in the UVU Hall of Fame, the Utah Hall of Fame and the NJCAA Hall of Fame. Richards passed away from cancer earlier this year, and all donations at the match went to the Lori Richards Memorial Scholarship Fund.
UVU wraps up the home season Saturday against Texas-Pan American at 1 p.m. Saturday is Senior Day, as the Wolverines will recognize senior middle blocker Erica Nish, the lone senior on the squad. From there, UVU takes a week off before heading east to round out the conference season at NJIT and Chicago State.
Kellen Hiser is sports information assistant at Utah Valley University. For more information on Wolverine athletics, visit WolverineGreen.com.
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