The Wolverines continued their home tournament playing the third match against in-state rival The University of Utah. After a great weekend of wins against both UC Davis and Portland, UVU was all warmed up to face off off against the Utes.
Utes Head Coach Beth Launiere has been with her team for thirty seasons. She has seen over 564 career victories in that time. Last season the Utes made the NCAA tournament for the fifteenth time and the second round for the eleventh time. This resulted in an ending rank of nineteenth overall in the nation. This season the University of Utah holds a 6-0 winning streak coming into this match with UVU.
Set number one started with a kill by senior middle blocker Jasmine Niutupuivaha. Sophomore right side hitter Kaili Downs and junior outside hitter Bailey Nixon would follow with three kills each. Back and forth, back and forth scoring continued with Utes junior outside hitter Dani Drew firing kill after kill at the Wolverines. Drews has a total of 78 kills so far this season, and a total of 522 kills last season.
UVU held their own against these kills; however, with great team blocks by Niutupuivaha and Nixon. The Utes pulled ahead after 20 points and quickly finished the set with a score of 21-25.
The second set started much like the first with UVU taking the lead after two outs were called on the Utes. Junior defensive specialist/ libero Seren Merrill closely missed a dig, and the Utes pull ahead. Utes’ Drews continues with more great kills, and the Wolverines take it all in stride with some strong defense. Ultimately the Utes won this set 20-25.
To finish off the match, the Wolverines did what they had done before and started strong in set three. Sophomore outside hitter Kanza Tarawhiti continued what she had done all weekend and pushed hard on defense sending everything she saw over the net. Kanza got the rest of her kills in this set resulting in her nine kills for the night. The final set was shut down quickly by the Utes, however, and ends with a score of 25-18.
With this win, The University of Utah became the tournament champions. UVU’s Jasmine Niutupuinaha and Kazna Tarawhiti both made the All-Tournament Team, with Utes Dani Drew named as Tournament MVP.
The Wolverines will continue their season flying to Sophomore defense specialist/ libero Ofeira Petaia’s hometown of Honolulu, HI for the Hawaii Outrigger Hotels & Resorts Volleyball Challenge. Where they’ll play against UCLA Sept. 12, No. 20 Hawaii Sept.13 and finally West Virginia on Sept.14.
Photos by Natasha Colburn