Volleyball defeated by NMSU in tightly contested WAC opener 3-1

Kazna Tunavasa (16 kills) goes for the finish (Photo courtesy of UVU athletics)

The Utah Valley women’s volleyball team was defeated by the New Mexico State Aggies 3-1 in their first game of conference play on Sept. 24 at Lockhart arena.

Coming off of a loss to the 15th-ranked BYU Cougars the Wolverines looked to get a resume-building win against a 9-3 Aggie team, however, they simply could not close out when it mattered most.Senior Kazna Tunavasa led the team with 16 kills and sophomore Bryton Bishop continued her excellent play, tallying 14 digs. Sophomore Abbie Miller and freshman Natalie Palmer both helped set up their teammates, tallying 18 assists each.

The Wolverines fell into an early deficit in the first set but they kept the match close. UVU trailed closely behind for the entirety of the first set until the Aggies went on a 3-0 run to go up 20-16. The Wolverines attempted to rally but they could not put together a continuous run and came up short, losing the set 25-20.

Dissimilar to the first set, the Wolverines jumped out to an early lead to open the second set. UVU began the set on a hot 4-0 run before the Aggies were able to break their scoring drought. After a back and forth stretch, the Wolverines managed to go up 19-13 and take control of all momentum. After withstanding a late rally from the Aggies, cutting the Wolverine lead to three, Miller snuck over a setter’s dump and scored the set clinching point. The Wolverines won the second set 25-20 and snapped NMSU’s 19 set winning streak. Utah Valley also broke a 26-set Aggie streak of having a lead, which the Wolverines snapped by scoring the first point.

The Wolverines attempted to ride the momentum from their commanding second set win but were not quite able to come out with the same dominance. It was a tightly contested affair with no team gaining a significant advantage. The Wolverines held an early lead but the Aggies managed to knot the score up at 8-8 after a short 2-0 run. Neither team was able to find any separation until Tunavasa helped lead the Wolverines on a 4-0 run to go up 18-14. The Aggies managed to claw their way back to tie the set yet again at 22-22. The Wolverines managed to take the lead back but the Aggies stepped up when it mattered most, going on a 4-1 run to overtake UVU. The Wolverines narrowly dropped a hard-fought third set 26-24.

Having lost the momentum the Wolverines needed to come out strong in the fourth set. However, UVU dug themselves into an early deficit after allowing a 4-0 Aggie run to go down 7-3. Coming out of a timeout, the Wolverines battled back, bringing the score within one. Just as the team looked poised to shift the momentum and take the lead, NMSU went on a crushing 5-0 run to take a 17-11 lead. The Wolverines managed a small comeback, going on a 3-0 run to bring the set to 17-14 but the Aggies managed to maintain separation and never looked back. The Wolverines lost the fourth set 25-20, putting the final nail in the coffin.

The Wolverines now drop to 5-7 on the season and 0-1 in conference play. UVU will be back in action to  try to bounce back from their hard-fought loss to NMSU as they face off against GCU at Lockhart Arena on Saturday, Sept. 25. The match begins at 1 p.m. MT and  can be streamed on ESPN+.

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