OREM — The Orem Tigers took Step 1 to defending their Region 7 title Thursday by defeating the Provo Bulldogs in three convincing games, 25-19, 25-16, 25-9.

Last year the Tigers opened up against the Bulldogs and found themselves on the losing end of a similar score, so this season it was even more important for them to come out strong in the opening match of their league season.

"Provo beat us in the first match last year, so it was nice to come out in this one and pretty much control the game the whole time," said Orem coach Natalie Kidman, who is hoping this is a good omen for the squad she hopes can repeat as Region 7 champs and head into state with a load of confidence and momentum.

"Our passing is so much better, and we have so many offensive threats. Our serving was big. It kept them out of the game," she said.

But because of those big serves, including five service aces and others that kept the Bulldogs on their heels, they also went through a stretch in Game 2 where they tossed in six service errors.

Sophomore hitter Hannah Robison proved she can not only hit the ball for a kill, she can also rocket it from the back court. Her coach notes, that sometimes she's even better from back court.

"Her timing is getting better. I've been telling her to swing harder, and she's been connecting a lot more. Her balls are going down with a lot more authority," said Kidman of the hitter, who pounded out eight kills and stuffed four solo blocks.

April Robins led the Tigers with 12 kills, and Ella Moe added seven kills and a pair of service aces. The Tigers also looked to Temeeka Jones for defense as the middle blocker provided five blocks and three nice kills. Rylee Robinson was a consistent defender in the back court, and Shelby Lamoreaux turned the nice passing game into great sets for her team full of powerful hitters. For a short while in Game 1, the Tigers were a little concerned with their lack of ability to put the Bulldogs away as they fought through six ties and allowed Provo to take an early 9-6 lead, but a time out set them straight, and it didn't take long to get them back into the flow. The Tigers reeled off seven straight points in the middle of Game 2 to take a commanding lead, and they were never tested in Game 3. The Bulldogs were led by Kara Griffin and Cassidy Christiansen, who pounded down six kills each, but none of the other hitters could get anything going for Provo, which should prove to be one of the top four competitors in Region 7 competition.

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