The Utah Valley volleyball team used dominant performances in sets one and three and a thrilling comeback in game two to sweep WAC leader CSU Bakersfield, 3-0, in the Pink Game at Lockhart Arena on Thursday night (25-14, 27-25, 25-16).
UVU improves to 11-13 overall and 6-3 in conference play with the win, while Bakersfield drops to 14-8 overall and 7-3 in the WAC. With the victory, Utah Valley sits just one game out of first place in the WAC standings.
“We spent a lot of time reviewing the game plan and what their tendencies were, and the girls executed it,” said UVU head coach Sam Atoa. “Your plan can only go so far if the girls don’t do anything about it, and tonight they did. It was fun to be able to see that. Our defense was huge in that first set to keep the momentum and tempo going, and it was huge in that second set where we played the ball and put it strategically where we needed it to go, and allowed our defense to get the win.”
Utah Valley was paced by a balanced attack, getting seven kills from Lexi Thompson and six apiece from Izzie Hinton and Alexis Davies. Madison Dennison entered the night tied for the NCAA season high in blocks and recorded seven on the night, while Brighton Taylor led the team in blocks with eight. In total, UVU recorded 17 team blocks on the night, which is a school record for team blocks in a three-set match.
The Wolverines used kills from Sierra Starley and Thompson to spark an early 5-0 run in the opening set, jumping out to a 9-3 lead. A block from Thompson and Taylor, followed by a kill from Taylor later in the set aided in a 4-0 stretch for UVU, putting it up 13-4. Bakersfield used a 4-0 run to pull within six, but that’s as close as it got the rest of the game. Utah Valley scored five of the set’s final six points to jump out to a 1-0 lead in the match (25-14). Taylor led the way for the Wolverines with two kills and five blocks in the set.
Facing a 4-2 deficit in the second set, Bakersfield went on a 9-1 run to take an 11-5 lead. The Roadrunners’ lead got as big as seven, but UVU pulled off multiple 3-0 runs to pull within one and eventually tied the game at 22 on an attack error by CSUB. The two sides traded points until Bakersfield had set point at 25-24, but Dennison and Davies scored on a block to keep the Wolverines alive. The Runners then committed back-to-back attack errors to give UVU the set and a 2-0 lead in the match (27-25). Davies fueled the Wolverine comeback with three kills and three blocks, and Dennison pitched in three kills and a block of her own.
CSUB opened the third game with a 3-0 stretch to grab a 3-1 lead, but UVU responded with a 6-1 run to claim a 7-4 advantage. Bakersfield fought back to tie the set at 11, but consecutive errors from the ‘Runners returned the lead to Utah Valley. Dennison then aided in three-consecutive blocks on the next three plays to extend the UVU lead to five. CSU Bakersfield could only pull within four for the remainder of the set, and back-to-back kills from Thompson and Hinton clinched the match for the Wolverines (25-16). Four kills and three blocks from Thompson along with Dennison’s three blocks led UVU in the sweep-clinching set.
Starley earned a match-high 26 assists to go along with a team-high nine digs in the winning effort.
The Wolverines close out their homestand on Saturday, Oct. 28, against Grand Canyon. The match is set to begin at 1 p.m. MT, and will take place at Lockhart Arena. Utah Valley will then head to Las Cruces on Thursday, Nov. 2, to take on New Mexico State in the first leg of a crucial two-game road trip.