USAF Academy, Colo. — After sweeping past UC Riverside earlier in the day, Utah Valley continued its winning ways by defeating Wyoming in four sets Friday evening at the Air Force Invitational at Falcon Court (25-16, 25-17, 21-25, 25-17). The Wolverines will look for the clean sweep at the tournament and their second straight victory over a Mountain West foe on Saturday when they conclude the tournament against Air Force.
"The girls played very well tonight. They came out and executed at the net as well as at the service line and just played a great match," head coach Sam Atoa said. "We had a hard time staying focused against UC Riverside (earlier in the day) and I was really proud of how the girls responded against a better team in Wyoming tonight."
UVU (5-8) picked up its third consecutive victory by using a balanced attack against the Cowgirls (8-5). Junior Kalani Norris led Utah Valley with 11 kills, but three other Wolverines finished with over eight kills apiece as sophomore Lauren Stringham added nine and seniors Katie Fritzler and Brookelyn Halleach chipped in eight. Stringham also led UVU at the net as she added a match-high five blocks while Fritzler added four. Junior McKenna Tait also had a night by adding a match-high five aces and 22 digs.
"Our middles were really challenged against Wyoming but they came in and did exceptionally well tonight," Atoa said. "Brookelyn set a great match and gave our middles the opportunity to be able to take control."
The Wolverines jumped out to a quick two sets to none advantage over the Cowgirls, who began the season a perfect 6-0, after they took the first two games by a combined total of 17 points.
With UVU leading 17-14 midway through the opening set, it closed out the frame by scoring eight of the final 10 points. Norris and Hall led the spurt with two kills apiece.
Set number two was all Utah Valley as it burst out to 13-0 lead. Tait led the way during the run with four service aces. UVU outhit Wyoming .308 - .185 in the frame.
UW took set three as it broke a 19-all tie with a 5-0 run to take a late 24-19 set-point advantage. UVU scored the next two points thanks to two Wyoming attack errors, but Wyoming finished off the set on a kill from Calli Fry on the next point.
With Wyoming leading the early stages of the fourth set at 8-5, UVU quickly closed the gap by scoring the next three points to tie it up at 8-8. Three kills from Stringham as well as two more from Fritzler helped the Wolverines take control of the set as they took a 17-12 advantage. UVU then added to its lead down the stretch and finished off the match on a kill from junior Cassie Wahlin.
As a whole, UVU recorded five more service aces than the Pokes and outhit them .271 - .147.
Bridget Shanahan led the Cowgirls with 12 kills while Utah Valley limited Erin Kirby, the nation's leader in blocks, to just three block assists in the contest.
Following the Air Force Invitational finale against AFA on Saturday at 6 p.m., UVU will look begin its inaugural season of play in the Western Athletic Conference next Thursday at Idaho.
James Warnick is an assistant sports information director at Utah Valley University. For more information about Wolverine athletics, visit www.WolverineGreen.com.
Copyright 2017, Deseret News Publishing Company