The Utah Valley University volleyball team closes its 2017 regular season this weekend with a pair of home matches against Western Athletic Conference foes UMKC and Chicago State. Thursday's contest is Senior Night for the Wolverines and is set for a 7 p.m. start against the Kangaroos, while Saturday's regular-season finale versus the Cougars begins at 1 p.m.
The Wolverines (12-15) enter the weekend in fourth place in the WAC standings with a 7-5 conference record. UVU sits just one game back of CSU Bakersfield (8-4) for third place and two games back of second-place UT Rio Grande Valley (9-3), which will host the 2017 WAC Volleyball Tournament next week in Edinburg, Texas (Nov. 16-18).
After winning five of six matches in late October, Utah Valley dropped a pair of WAC contests on the road to first-place New Mexico State and second-place UTRGV last week. The Wolverines first fell to NM State, 3-0 (23-25, 20-25, 15-25), on Nov. 2, before suffering another straight-set setback to the Vaqueros on Nov. 4 (19-25, 24-26, 19-25).
Despite dropping both matches, senior Lexi Thompson led UVU with 26 kills, a 4.33 kills per set average and an average of 3.33 digs. Freshman Kristen Allred too had a nice week by averaging 2.80 kills and 2.40 digs, while senior Sierra Starley dished out 9.83 assists and fellow senior Madison Dennison led the way at the net with 1.17 blocks. Thompson recorded 13 kills in each match, as well as a career-high 15 digs against UTRGV.
With seven blocks in the two matches last week, Dennison still finds herself leading the nation in blocks with 167 on the year. She enters the week one block ahead of North Dakota's Faith Dooley (166). Dennison, who also leads the WAC in hitting percentage with a .309 clip, also enters Thursday's contest ranked fourth nationally in blocks per set with a 1.65 per set average. As a team, the Wolverines lead the WAC in total blocks (295.5) and blocks per set average (2.93). UVU also ranks fourth and 12th nationally, respectively, in the two categories.
Behind Dennison's team-best 1.65 blocks per set average and .309 hitting percentage, Thompson paces the team in kills with a 3.36 per set average, while Starley leads the way in assists (9.76 aps) and freshman Seren Merrill fronts the team in digs (3.88 dps).
Senior night for UVU
Five seniors will be honored prior to Thursday's match, as they will play their final home matches in a Wolverine uniform at Lockhart Arena this weekend. Four-year letterwinners Dennison, Starley and Thompson will be recognized, as well as two-year transfers Marija Martinovic and Brighton Taylor.
The Roos come to Orem currently tied for fifth place in the WAC with a 9-16 overall record and a 5-7 conference mark. UMKC enters the contest having won its last two matches, with a 3-0 sweep over Chicago State in the Windy City last week and a 3-2 upset victory over UTRGV at home on Oct. 28. Following Thursday's match, Kansas City will head on to Seattle to conclude its regular season against its fellow fifth-place team, the Seattle U Redhawks (9-16, 5-7).
Alicia Harrington paces the Kangaroo offense with a 3.39 kills per set average, while Mykal Sadler leads the way at the net with a 1.02 blocks per set clip.
Thursday's match will mark the 10th all-time meeting between UVU and UMKC. The Wolverines enter play holding a 6-3 series lead and having won three of the last four meetings, including a 3-1 victory in Kansas City last month.
About Chicago State
The Cougars enter the weekend with a 10-19 record and a 1-11 mark in WAC play. CSU has dropped its last 12 matches and will first head to Seattle to take on the Redhawks on Thursday before concluding its regular season at UVU on Saturday. Chicago State holds its lone conference win of the season over Grand Canyon, after defeating the Antelopes, 3-1, in Chicago on Sept. 23.
Provo, Utah native and Timpview High School graduate Lauryn Dela Cruz leads the Cougars and the WAC in kills on the season with a 4.10 kills per set average, while setter Lacee Adams fronts CSU and the WAC in assists with a 10.21 per set average. Alexandria Cliff paces the team at the net with a 0.75 blocks per set clip.
Saturday's contest will mark the 22nd all-time meeting between the Wolverines and Cougars. UVU holds a commanding 21-0 record, which includes an unblemished 9-0 mark in Orem.
Up next for UVU
Next week, the Wolverines head to Edinburg, Texas, for the 2017 WAC Volleyball Tournament. The tournament will run Thursday through Saturday, Nov. 16-18, at UT Rio Grande Valley's UTRGV Fieldhouse. A season ago, the Wolverines reached the championship match for the first time and finished as the tournament's runner-up.
James Warnick is an assistant sports information director at Utah Valley University. For more information about Wolverine athletics, visit GoUVU.com.