NEWARK, N.J. — The Utah Valley University volleyball team moved into a tie atop the Great West Conference standings with a 3-1 (21-25, 25-23, 25-10, 25-22) road win over NJIT on Thursday evening.
UVU improves to 15-8 overall and is in a first-place tie with Houston Baptist with identical 6-1 conference records with just one match remaining for both teams.
"There were some moments in this match where I felt like we did some really nice things and at some challenging times," UVU coach Sam Atoa said. "NJIT plays hard against us and this was a nice win for us to remain in line for the conference championship."
The Wolverines trailed the Highlanders (11-15, 3-5 GWC) by just two points midway through the opening set (15-13), but NJIT scored six of the next seven points to take a commanding 21-14 advantage. Kills from senior Erica Nish and junior Katie Fritzler and a block assist from the aforementioned duo helped UVU close the gap to two, at 22-20, but NJIT responded and managed to take the first frame 25-21.
UVU countered back in the beginning of the second set as it jumped out to a early 9-4 lead. A kill from freshman Lauren Stringham later gave the Wolverines a late eight-point lead at 20-12. NJIT then made things interesting down the stretch by scoring 10 of the next 12 points to tie the score at 22-all. With the score later tied at 23-23, a kill by Nish and an ace by sophomore Kalani Norris helped the Wolverines knot the match at one set apiece.
In the third set, the Wolverines took a 10-4 advantage after a kill from Norris. The Highlanders pulled to within two at 10-8, but UVU rolled off a 6-0 run to take a 16-8 lead. After a Highlander point, the Wolverines then pieced together a 7-0 spurt to take a 23-9 lead.
UVU quickly finished the third set at 25-10. Fritzler led the way with four kills while Nish added three. In a tightly contested fourth set that saw nine ties and five lead changes, NJIT held a late 18-16 advantage. UVU struck back by scoring three straight points to take a 19-18 lead. With the score later tied at 21-all, Nish pounded home two kills and Fritzler and junior Lindsay Morrell each added one to help the Wolverines take the contest.
Nish led UVU in the match with 12 kills and a .348 attack percentage, while Fritzler and Norris both added nine kills apiece. Stringham also added eight kills and a match high seven block assists, as UVU outblocked the Highlanders 12-5 in the match. The Wolverines also outhit NJIT .215-.095 for the contest. Junior Brookelyn Hall recorded her 11th double-double of the year with 39 assists and 12 digs.
"It was a great overall game for us," Atoa said. "We took control at the net with our blocking and our hitting. Kudos to the girls for sticking it out."
Danica Vukotic led the Highlanders with a match-high 17 kills.
The Wolverines will conclude conference play Saturday in the Windy City against Chicago State. UVU will then return to Orem to host the 2012 Great West Conference Women's Volleyball Tournament. The conference tournament will be played at UVU's PE Building Nov. 16-17.
James Warnick is an assistant sports information director at Utah Valley University. For more information about Wolverine athletics, visit www.WolverineGreen.com.