Head coach Sam Atoa didn’t want his team to take a step back against conference competition.
Instead, the Wolverines have taken a leap forward, easily winning their first two Great West Conference matches behind a rejuvenated Chelsey Heaps. The senior outside hitter combined for 22 kills and 27 digs in wins over North Dakota and Chicago State.
The Wolverines lost just one set in the two games combined.
Heaps, who until last week had struggled in converting her scoring attempts, found herself challenged by Atoa after the first set against CSU last Thursday.
“He was pretty blunt with me,” Heaps admitted. “He said, ‘You’re only hitting .150 right now. You should be hitting .500.’ I just went out and did what he told me to.”
Heaps finished with 11 kills and a .308 percentage, re-emerging as the dangerously accurate scorer UVU missed the first month of the season. After the game Heaps said she may be back to form after her rough start.
“I kind of got in a good groove and I felt I had to work toward that groove,” Heaps said. “At first I was a little frustrated.”
Where Heaps has regained her swagger, Kalani Norris is establishing hers. The true freshman scored eight kills and four aces against CSU, second behind Heaps, just days after notching seven against defending GWC champion North Dakota.
Atoa credited Norris for stepping up as yet another threat for UVU’s multi-threat offense, indicating more playing time could be forthcoming.
“She’s young and very capable,” Atoa said. “It’s just working on her consistency. She’s coming along really well, a lot better than what I had expected. She needs as many reps as possible to keep improving.”
Jaicee Kuresa and Sarah Clement solidified UVU’s front line last week, with Kuresa going for 18 kills in two games and Clement amassing seven blocks at North Dakota.
“Jaicee is doing really great on the right side,” Heaps said. “Our middles are awesome. We can always count on them to give us a great kill. I think everyone’s stepping up, but I really like what Jaicee’s doing.”
The Wolverines never trailed beyond the early stages against Chicago State, enabling them to play everyone except redshirt freshman Kaysie Taylor and injured outside hitter Lindsay Barker.
“We’re doing what we’re expected to do, offensively and defensively,” Atoa said. “Chicago State, they’re playing and working hard, but our kids just overmatched them as far as the match goes.”
Utah Valley hosts non-conference opponent Boise State Monday night, October 10, 7:00pm at the Activities Center.