In front of a school record crowd of 2,445 fans on Saturday night in the PE Building, Utah Valley University volleyball fell in straight sets to No. 9 BYU (25-14, 25-15, 25-21). The contest marked the 2015 home opener for UVU.
"The crowd was amazing tonight. Volleyball is an exciting sport and our challenge is for us to be able to play at a level that will continue to bring out these types of crowds," head coach Sam Atoa said. "The MAWL, and the fans in general were great, and it was fun to see a standing-room-only atmosphere at our gym."
Junior Macky Fifita paced the Wolverines (4-8) in the setback with a double-double of 12 kills and 10 digs, while senior Lauren Bakker added eight kills and three blocks. Sophomore Sierra Starley also chipped in a team-high 30 assists and four blocks for UVU in the contest.
With the Cougars (10-1) holding on to an early 8-2 advantage in the opening set, Bakker drilled home back-to-back kills to pull the Wolverines within four at 8-4. UVU later made it a 15-9 score following a kill from junior Kiahna Steiner, but BYU scored 10 of final 15 points to put the set away by 11 points.
The Wolverines came out looking more determined in the second set, as they trailed by just one at 9-8 following a BYU attack error. The ranked Cougars reeled off the next five points, however, to extend their advantage to 14-8. UVU later pulled to within three, but that's as close as it would make it the rest of the frame as Brigham Young pulled it out by a score of 25-15.
UVU once again got off to a hot start in the third set as it jumped out to a quick 6-2 lead following 4-0 spurt that was capped by a Starley kill. The Cougars later rallied to tie things up at 9-all, and the set seesawed back and forth from there until BYU went on a late 5-2 run to put the set away at 25-21.
"We played a lot better in that third set," Atoa said. "I felt like we had more energy and really took care of the ball. But we later became a little undisciplined and BYU is too good of a team for us to take a little bit of a break. We've got to be able to step up and play fairly close to an error free game and we did a lot better in that final set but it just wasn't enough."
The Reigning AVCA All-American Alexa Gray led BYU on the night with a match-high 15 kills.
Despite suffering the setback, UVU put up the same amount of team blocks as the ranked Cougars in the contest as both teams finished with six blocks apiece.
The ninth-ranked Cougars marked the highest rated opponent the Wolverine volleyball program has ever hosted in Orem.
UVU now heads back on the road next week to begin its third season of Western Athletic Conference play. The Wolverines, who were picked to finish fifth in the WAC this season, open play at Chicago State on Thursday, Sept. 24, and the defending conference champion Missouri-Kansas City Kangaroos on Saturday, Sept. 26.
James Warnick is an assistant sports information director at Utah Valley University. For more information about Wolverine athletics, visit WolverineGreen.com.