CHICAGO – The Utah Valley University volleyball team won its second consecutive Great West Conference title Saturday by sweeping Chicago State University (25-17, 25-13, 25-20) to finish the conference season with a 7-1 record.
"The girls worked hard during the regular season and it's just an awesome feeling for them to be conference champions again," UVU head coach Sam Atoa said.
The Wolverines (16-8, 7-1 GWC) share the conference title with Houston Baptist, however, as the two finished with identical 7-1 records and split their two season meetings against one another.
UVU will now set its sights on winning its first conference tournament championship. The Wolverines will host the GWC Tournament in Orem next weekend, and UVU will enter as the two-seed as HBU earned the one-seed due to tiebreaker rules. The GWC tiebreaker rule states that the team who won the most head-to-head sets against one another will get the higher seed, and the Huskies won five sets against UVU, while the Wolverines won four.
Senior Erica Nish had a huge match for UVU on Saturday as she led the way with 14 kills and a .520 hitting percentage. Junior Brookelyn Hall recorded her 12th double-double of the season with 30 assists and 10 digs, and sophomore McKenna Tait set a new school record and career-high with eight service aces. Tait also led the way from the back row with 15 digs.
Chicago State (2-29, 0-8 GWC) started off strong on its Senior Day as the Cougars jumped out to a 6-1 advantage in the opening set. UVU answered back by scoring 10 of the next 11 points to take an 11-7 lead. The Wolverines pulled ahead from there and stretched their lead to eight, at 18-10, following a kill from junior Lindsay Morrell. UVU went on to take the first set 25-17.
Back-to-back kills from junior Katie Fritzler and two more from Nish helped the Wolverines take a 15-6 lead in the second frame. The Cougars cut it to six but that was as close as they would get that set as UVU took the second game by 12 points. Nish led the Wolverine attack that set with four kills while Tait added three aces.
CSU looked like it might take the third frame as it took an early 10-4 advantage. UVU scored eight of the next 10 points to tie the score at 12-all however.
The Wolverines then stretched their lead to 17-12 thanks to three straight Chicago State attack errors. The Cougars made things interesting as they pulled within two, at 19-17, down the stretch, but UVU took the final set by five points. Nish had a huge set as she drilled home eight kills in the frame.
"We reached some of our goals today and the girls kept their focus," added Atoa. "We fell behind early in the first and third sets but the girls stayed focused and managed to come back and win those sets."
Chicago State was led in the contest by nine kills each from Alyssa Podwell and Valeria Desiderio.
The Great West Conference Tournament will be held at UVU's PE Building and will begin Friday, Nov. 16. The Wolverines will open up play in the semifinal match at 5 p.m. that evening and will take on No. 3 Texas-Pan American. The championship match will then take place on Nov. 17 at 7 p.m. The title contest will be televised live locally by UVUTV and rebroadcast nationally on Fox College Sports.
James Warnick is an assistant sports information director at Utah Valley University. For more information about Wolverine athletics, visit www.WolverineGreen.com.