The Utah Valley University volleyball team continues its three-match homestand with a pair of Western Athletic Conference contests at Lockhart Arena this weekend. UVU will first host first-place CSU Bakersfield on Thursday, before closing the homestand against Grand Canyon on Saturday.
Thursday's contest against the 7-2 Roadrunners is set for 7 p.m., while Saturday's begins at 1 p.m. Both matches will be streamed live on the WAC Digital Network.
"We have to be able to take care of things at home. Last week was a tough loss for us, so we need to come out and be a ton better this week," said UVU head coach Sam Atoa. "Both Bakersfield and Grand Canyon are good teams. We'll be OK; we just need to be more disciplined and able to bounce back this week."
The Wolverines enter Thursday's contest in fourth place in the WAC standings with a 10-13 overall record and a 5-3 conference clip. CSUB is leading the conference at 7-2, while New Mexico State and UT Rio Grande Valley are tied for second at 6-2. Seattle U is one game back of UVU at 4-4 to hold down fifth place, while UMKC is sixth at 3-6, GCU is seventh at 2-7 and Chicago State is eighth at 1-8.
After beating Chicago State and UMKC on the road two weeks ago, Utah Valley dropped its lone contest of the week last week at home in five sets to Seattle U. SU won sets two and three before UVU responded to take the fourth set, 25-20, to send the match to a decisive fifth game. With the Redhawks holding a slim 7-6 advantage in the fifth set, Seattle U managed to reel off a key 6-0 run en route to taking the set and match.
Sophomore Izzie Hinton and senior Madison Dennison paced the Wolverines against the Redhakws with 11 and 10 respective kills. Dennison also led the way at the net by registering a double-double with 10 blocks, while fellow senior Lexi Thompson added nine kills and 10 digs.
Dennison enters the weekend not only leading the Wolverines and the WAC in blocks but also the entire nation, as she enters play tied atop all of NCAA Division I volleyball. Her and North Dakota's Faith Dooley hold down the top spot with 146 total blocks apiece. Dennison's blocking tallies are also good enough to rank her fourth nationally in blocks per set average with a 1.64 clip.
Dennison also leads the Wolverines in hitting with a .314 attack percentage and ranks second on the team in kills with a 2.74 per set average. Thompson leads the way for UVU in kills with a 3.37 per set clip, while senior setter Sierra Starley tops the team in assists with 9.71 per set.
About CSU Bakersfield
The Roadrunners come to Orem leading the WAC with a 14-10 overall record and a 7-2 league record. CSUB has won two-straight matches after sweeping UMKC and Chicago State at home last week. CSU Bakersfield's lone two conference losses came on the road two weeks ago at NM State and UTRGV. Thursday's match will mark the second meeting of the season between UVU and CSUB. The 'Runners managed to pull out a tightly contested five-set battle over UVU last month in Bakersfield, and the last five matches between Utah Valley and CSUB have gone the full five sets.
Haylee Roberts paces the 'Runners with a 2.67 kills per set average, a .314 hitting percentage and a 0.91 blocks per set clip, while Briannah Mariner is next with 2.32 kills per set.
Thursday's match will mark the 20th all-time meeting between the Wolverines and 'Runners. UVU enters play holding an 11-8 series lead, a 7-3 mark in Orem and having won four of the last six meetings.
About Grand Canyon
GCU enters the weekend with a 7-14 overall record and a 2-7 conference mark but will first head to Seattle to face Seattle U on Thursday. The Antelopes dropped their first seven conference matches before defeating Chicago State (3-1) and UMKC (3-0) at home last week. Utah Valley defeated Grand Canyon in four sets in Phoenix earlier this season.
Claire Kovensky leads the Lopes offensively with a 3.26 kills per set average, while Maria Adams paces the team at the net with a 1.08 blocks per set clip.
Saturday's match will mark the 10th all-time meeting between the Wolverines and Lopes. UVU enters play holding a perfect 9-0 all-time record against GCU.
Up next for UVU
Following this weekend's matches, the Wolverines will head on the road for the final time of the regular season with a pair of contests at New Mexico State on Nov. 2 and at UTRGV on Nov. 4. Following the key trip, UVU will return home to conclude its regular season against UMKC on Nov. 9 and Chicago State on Nov. 11. The 2017 WAC Tournament will then be held Nov. 16-18, at the UTRGV Fieldhouse in Edinburg, Texas.
James Warnick is an assistant sports information director at Utah Valley University. For more information about Wolverine athletics, visit GoUVU.com.