OREM — The Utah Valley University volleyball team looks to resume its winning ways on the road this week when it continues WAC play Thursday at Bakersfield and Saturday at Grand Canyon. The Wolverines enter the week in second place in the conference standings with a 4-1 league record.
UVU won all three conference matches it played last week to move into second place in the WAC. The Wolverines began the week by sweeping Texas-Pan American on the road Monday (25-9, 25-11, 25-23). Utah Valley then came home for its conference home opener against Kansas City on Thursday and came back from a 2-1 deficit to top the Kangaroos (20-25, 25-21, 21-25, 25-19, 15-7). The Wolverines then concluded the week by sweeping Chicago State on Saturday (25-13, 25-14, 26-24).
With the three victories, Utah Valley has now won eight of its last nine matches and is over .500 for the first time on the year at 10-9 overall. Prior to the two home victories last weekend, UVU went a near-perfect 6-1 on its seven-match road stretch away from Orem.
"It's always a challenge to win on the road. But we're hoping to feed off of our recent successes away from home," head coach Sam Atoa said. "This weekend will be another test for the kids but we expect to come away victorious."
Junior outside hitter Kalani Norris led the Wolverines in the three victories last week by recording 42 kills, a 3.82 kill per set average, a .322 hitting percentage and 25 digs (2.27 dig/set average). Norris also posted a career night in the five-set win over UMKC last week as she led UVU with a double-double of 22 kills and 18 digs. Twelve of her match-high 22 kills came in the final two must-win sets.
With the big performances last week, Norris now leads the Wolverines in kills on the year with 204. Freshman Macky Treanor paces UVU in kill per set average (3.46), while sophomore Lauren Stringham is tops in attack percentage (.299). Stringham also leads the way in blocks with 84 (1.18 block/set average). Junior McKenna Tait is tops on the squad, as well as the WAC, in aces with 34 and her 0.47 ace per set average is good enough for 19th in the nation.
As a team, the Wolverines rank second in the conference in hitting percentage (.211) and third in block (2.24 per set average) and service aces (1.31 per set average).
The Roadrunners are 9-9 on the season and in sixth place in the WAC standings at 2-3. CSUB has conference victories over Chicago State and Seattle U but is just 1-3 in its last four contests. Bakersfield was picked to finish fifth in its first season of play in the WAC.
Preseason All-WAC selection Debora Araujo leads the `Runners and the WAC in kills and kill per set average with 245 and 3.66, respectively. Molly O'Hagan leads CSUB in hitting percentage at .347 as well as blocks with 54 (0.81 per set average), while Fernanda Goncalves is tops on the team in assists with 633 (9.45 per set average).
Thursday's match will be the 10th all-time meeting between the Wolverines and `Runners but the first as members of the WAC. UVU will enter the match with a 7-2 all-time series advantage. The teams met up twice last year and each squad came away victories on their home court.
About Grand Canyon
Like Utah Valley and Bakersfield, GCU is competing in its inaugural WAC season. Furthermore, the Antelopes are getting their first taste of NCAA Division I competition after making the leap from Division II prior to the start of the 2013 season. The women's volleyball team has enjoyed recent success, qualifying for the NCAA DII tournament in 2011 and 2012. As an athletic program, Grand Canyon has been awarded the Learfield Sports Director's Cup the last two years, an accolade given to the top-performing school in DII athletics.
The `Lopes are off to a 7-9 start overall in their first season of play at the Division I level and are 1-3 in the WAC. GCU has wins over Weber State, Dartmouth, Manhattan, Providence, Arizona Christian, Louisiana-Monroe and WAC foe Chicago State. Grand Canyon, which was picked to finish eighth in the WAC this season, will enter Saturday's contest on a three-match losing streak.
Kaitlynn Ausmus leads GCU in kills with 191 and her 2.94 kill per set average. Lanie Muys is tops on the team in hitting percentage (.241) and blocks (49/0.75 per set average), while Mackenzie Phelps leads GCU and the WAC in digs with an average of 5.60 per set.
Saturday's contest will mark the first-ever meeting between the Wolverines and Antelopes.
Up next for the Wolverines
UVU will step out of conference play for a date in Logan with in-state rival Utah State on Tuesday, Oct. 15. The Wolverines defeated the Aggies in five sets at the Smith Spectrum last season. Utah Valley will then return home following the contest to begin a five-match home stand against Texas-Pan American on Thursday, Oct. 17.
James Warnick is an assistant sports information director at Utah Valley University. For more information about Wolverine athletics, visit www.WolverineGreen.com.