Utah Valley earns second straight bid to NCAA tournament with WAC tournament title

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The Utah Valley women’s volleyball team clinched the program’s second-straight NCAA tournament berth with a 3-0 sweep (25-18, 25-22, 25-16) over the Grand Canyon Lopes to clinch the WAC tournament title at the Pan American Center in Las Cruces, New Mexico on Saturday, Nov. 20. 

Senior outside hitter Kazna Tanuvasa was named the tournament MVP as she led the seventh-seeded Wolverines on an improbable championship run. Tanuvasa was also named to the All-Tournament team for the fourth-straight season, with sophomore middle blocker Kendra Nock joining her.

The Wolverines opened the tournament with a come-from-behind victory over host New Mexico State, coming back from down 2-1 to win in five sets. UVU wouldn’t lose another set for the remainder of the tournament, closing out the championship with an eight-set win streak, including a semifinal sweep over Stephen F. Austin.

As the old adage says, “defense wins championships,” and that rang true in the finals, as the Wolverine defense forced 24 attacking errors and combined for 11 blocks. 

The opening set against GCU was back-and-forth, but the Wolverines were able to pull away and close out both. After being tied at 16 to start the set, UVU closed out the set with a 9-3 run, capped off by a solo block from Tanuvasa. 

Set two started off close, but the Wolverines used a 9-4 run to hold the Lopes at bay for the remainder of the set. After UVU took a 21-15 lead, GCU bounced back with a 7-2 run, but ran out of gas down the stretch with the Wolverines scoring the final two points thanks to the blocking duo of Nock and Kaili Downs. 

With the WAC championship nearly in reach, the Wolverines started off the clinching set with a 16-2 run, all but putting the game out of reach. The Lopes didn’t go quietly, however, rattling off a 10-3 run in response, but it was ultimately too little, too late as UVU closed out the title with six of the final 10 points, capped off by a Tanuvasa kill. 

The Wolverines head into the NCAA tournament playing their best volleyball of the season, riding a five-game winning streak. They’ll start their NCAA tournament run facing off against a familiar foe in the Utah Utes, who beat UVU on both ends of a home-and-home series to open the season. The match will be hosted by No. 11 BYU at the Smith Fieldhouse in Provo on Dec. 3 at 4pm MDT.