Playing in their fourth invitational of the season, the Wolverines were hungry to pick up wins. The Air Force Invitational ended up being the most successful of the tournaments UVU has competed in this year, winning all three of its matches.
“We played some tough opponents early. It allowed us to kind of learn from those experiences,” head coach Sam Atoa said. “There were a few things that we discussed and talked about that we needed to be better at, particularly on the road as we prepared for this last tournament as well as preparing for our conference opener this weekend, where we’re in back-to-back-to-back road trips.”
The team defeated UC Riverside first in three sets (25-23, 25-17, 25-23), Wyoming in four sets (25-16, 25-17, 21-25, 25-17) before taking down host Air force (18-25, 25-18, 25-19, 18-25, 15-3) to come out on top of the invitational.
“I feel like we did very well at Weber on Tuesday, and going to the Air Force Invitational and beating a good Wyoming team,” Atoa said. “And then Air Force at home – it’s loud and hard to play there. I felt like we stepped up better to those challenges. We were getting a little comfortable at home. We stepped up and did what we needed to do away from home, which is something we’ve struggled with in the past.”
After the Wolverines dominated UC Riverside, four players tallied eight or more kills in the win over Wyoming. UVU was then led by personal record-setting performances from Lauren Stringham, who had 13 kills, and Katie Fritzler, who finished with 12 kills against Air Force to improve the team’s road record to 5-2 on the season.
“We were able to be quite a bit more engaged and more involved in some of those areas of weakness,” Atoa said. “We hope we can carry that momentum into this weekend with conference play starting.”
The WAC coaches selected UVU to finish third in the conference in the preseason poll.
“I think we’ve got a lot to learn,” Atoa said in regards to the prediction. “This weekend is going to tell a lot about just where the teams are at. We feel like we’re in a good position with what we’ve done up to this point, preparing for this opening weekend. We feel like we’re ready for the challenge to move ahead and start our first WAC competition.”
Stringham, a sophomore, was one of the nominees for WAC player of the week for Sept. 15-21 because of her strong performance in helping the Wolverines defeat Weber State and later capture the Air Force Invitational. Stringham averaged 2.40 kills on .400 hitting in addition to 1.27 blocks per set during the week.
“Lauren’s success is going to be huge for us throughout the year,” Atoa said. “She’s had a few struggles just trying to connect. However, this last weekend I felt that Katie as well as Lauren really came through the way we expected them to. I’m really proud of what Lauren has accomplished.”
The Wolverines continued their recent run of success by defeating Idaho (22-25, 25-22,19-25, 25-21, 15-11) to push their winning streak to five matches. UVU was on the brink of opening league play with a loss trailing two sets to one, before the Wolverines took the next to sets to move atop the WAC standings. Idaho was selected to finish second in the WAC coaches’ preseason poll.
UVU played its next WAC match Sept. 28 at Seattle University, and continues its conference slate Sept. 30 against Texas-Pan American.