On senior night at Lockhart arena, the Utah Valley University volleyball team completed a 3-0 sweep over the University of Missouri-Kansas City on Thursday night in Western Athletic Conference action (25-20, 25-23, 25-20).
With the win, the Wolverines improve to 13-15 overall and 8-5 in WAC play, while UMKC drops to 9-17 overall and 5-8 in conference play with just one regular-season match remaining Saturday. UVU enters Saturday just one game back of second place, as UTRGV and CSU Bakersfield are currently tied for second at 9-4.
"I was proud of the girls for keeping their emotions in check tonight and allowing us to do what we needed to do," said UVU head coach Sam Atoa. "When it really mattered there at the end of each set, we were able to own the last third, especially in the first and second sets. It was just a great job by the girls."
Utah Valley honored five seniors before the match, including Sierra Starley, Brighton Taylor, Lexi Thompson, Madison Dennison and Marija Martinovic. Starley recorded two kills, 37 assists and 12 digs on the night, while Taylor earned a career high with 11 kills on .588 hitting. Thompson followed with 10 kills, and Dennison added nine kills and four blocks. Martinovic recorded a key service ace that completed a Wolverine comeback in the third set after being five points down.
"There's a lot I could say about the seniors, and you probably wouldn't be able to fit it all in the article," Atoa said. "I'm very proud of them, I love them and it's always hard when you part. The good thing about doing senior night tonight is we still have another match on Saturday. We're also expecting big things next week, and we can extend our season even more. The best thing that we can do for our seniors is be able to keep playing hard and be the best team at the end of next week."
Early in the opening game, UVU used a 4-1 run led by two kills from Dennison to grab the lead. UMKC responded with a 5-1 run of its own to claim a one-point lead, but the Wolverines put together a second 4-1 run to regain the advantage in the set. With the score knotted up at 18, UVU took advantage of three errors by the Kangaroos on the way to going up 22-18. UMKC took the next two points, but the Wolverines reeled off three straight to win the opening set, 25-20. Dennison recorded five kills to lead Utah Valley to a 1-0 advantage in the match.
The Roos jumped out to an early lead in the second set on a pair of 3-0 runs. UMKC grew its lead to six, at 12-6, before UVU closed the gap with a 4-1 run. Kansas City regained its lead back to five, but the Wolverines answered with a 5-0 run to tie things up at 16-all. From there, neither team could pull ahead by more than one point until Kristin Allred put UVU up 22-20 with back-to-back kills. Utah Valley pushed the score to 24-22 to earn set point, and after a point from the Kangaroos, Thompson won the Wolverines the set, at 25-23, on her eighth kill of the match.
UMKC started off the third set by winning the first three points and pushed its lead to 7-2. Utah Valley closed the gap by responding with multiple 3-0 runs to make it a one-point game at 11-10. The Roos held onto their narrow lead as the two teams battled until UVU claimed a 17-16 advantage on a Martinovic service ace. Later on, a kill from Megan Boudreaux capped off a key 7-0 run for the Wolverines, giving them a 21-16 lead. Back-to-back kills from Dennison gave Utah Valley set point, and a service error from Kansas City helped complete the sweep for the Wolverines.
Besides the big outings from UVU's five seniors, the freshman Allred had a nice night with a double-double of 12 kills and 12 digs. She also added three assists and four blocks to her stat line, while fellow freshman Seren Merrill led the Wolverines from the back row with 14 digs.
Up next, the Wolverines play host to Chicago State on Saturday, Nov. 11, at 1 p.m. Following the showdown with the Cougars, Utah Valley will travel to Edinburg, Texas, for the WAC Championships where a trip to the NCAA Tournament is on the line. The opening round of the conference tournament will take place Thursday, Nov. 16, with the time and opponent to be determined.
James Warnick is an assistant sports information director at Utah Valley University. For more information about Wolverine athletics, visit GoUVU.com.