Early in the first set the crowd fell in silence for nearly two minutes after middle blocker Erica Nish hit the ground with a knee injury. Nish, second on the team in blocks (119), was assisted off the court and head coach Sam Atoa didn’t hesitate to bring in Katie Fritzler off the bench.
“It was really hard to see Erica go down,” Fritzler said. “But I knew I had to go in and I had to step it up for the team. I wasn’t going to let her down.”
Fritzler stepped up and scored a season high six blocks for Utah Valley, who beat Southern Utah 3-0 (25-22, 25-16, 25-21) Tuesday night in their last non-conference game of the season.
“There are some kids that don’t get as much opportunities to play,” Atoa said. “I felt that Katie did a really nice job coming in and filling in. We’ve got some depth and that’s exciting to be able to have that.”
SUU trailed throughout the first set and never took over the lead. Following a late timeout the Thunderbirds tied the game at 19-19. Utah Valley held together, however. A kill from senior Jaicee Kuresa and a solo block from Fritzler finished the set.
“I feel like our girls respond and bounce back,” Atoa said. “And whatever the circumstance or situation, they are confident in their abilities.”
Outside hitter Chelsey Heaps led the team with 13 kills while Sarah Clement contributed another nine. On top of her 27 assists, setter Brookelyn Campbell led the team’s defense with 13 digs. As for Nish’s injury, Atoa did not have an official status on her injury following the game.
“It’s hard to say. She’ll see the doctor tomorrow and we’ll just kind of go from there,” Atoa said. “It’s unfortunate sometimes that situations like these happen but we’re going to take it day by day.”
After Tuesday night’s win the Wolverines will prepare for their regular season finale against the University of North Dakota on Friday night. Both UND and Utah Valley are tied in the Great West Conference with a record of 8-1. The game will determine the GWC champions. According to Atoa, the girls have the momentum going into Friday’s game and are able to continue playing successfully.
I feel like that what we’ve been doing and this momentum and the way that we’ve been playing the game, it’s just continuing to play those games and keep getting better.” Atoa said. “That’s my challenge to the girls that they just need to come and be a little bit better tomorrow.”