UVU advances to semifinals in WAC tourney, sweeps UTRGV

Utah Valley University had no problem at all advancing past the quarterfinals in the opening round of the WAC tournament on Thursday, Nov. 21, defeating the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley 3-0 to clinch a spot in Friday’s semifinal matchup.

UVU came in as the fifth seed in the tournament, meaning the win over  fourth-seed UTRGV is deemed as a nice upset to kick things off for the Wolverines in tournament play. 

The Wolverines were in control for most of the first set thanks to strong offensive play. With the set tied at four a piece, the Wolverines went on a 7-2 run to take a commanding 11-6 lead over the Vaqueros. The opposing team then scored the next three points, but the Wolverines scored on the next three serves to regain their comfortable lead. The Vaqueros closed the gap to within three at 14-11 before the Wolverines went on an 8-2 run to push the set out of UTRGV’s grasp to go up 1-0. UVU totaled 13 kills in the first and sported a .455 hitting percentage as a team in the 25-17 victory in set one. 

The Vaqueros took a lead early in the second set on back-to-back kills that broke the tie and made the score 9-7. With the host team down two, they went on an 8-1 run to retake the lead. With UVU leading 21-16 late in the set, the Vaqueros scored four in a row to climb to within one. The Wolverines ended the set with a 4-2 burst to take a 2-0 match lead. 

Sophomore outside hitter Kazna Tarawhiti was a force for the Wolverines in set two as she tallied seven kills and two blocks alone. Senior middle blocker Makaila Jarema joined in on the block party as well, earning six blocks in the first two sets. 

The Vaqueros jumped out to a 3-1 lead in set three in an attempt to stage a comeback. UTRGV would stay on the offensive through the middle of the set to maintain a 12-8 over UVU. The Vaqueros led 16-12 when the Wolverines came roaring back, scoring five-straight points to take the lead and kept the momentum the rest of the way to seal the win.

Tarawhiti added four more kills in set three and Jarema added three more blocks to total nine on the night, her second-highest total of blocks on the season. Senior setter Madi Wardle also led her squad with 20 assists on the night. 

UVU now enters its most important matchup of the season as they face the first-seeded New Mexico State Aggies on Friday, Nov. 22, at 6 p.m. in Lockhart Arena. The Aggies are yet to lose a single match on the season and own the season series with the Wolverines 2-0.

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