By: Jessica Whalen [email protected]
The Wolverines entered their most recent match tied for second place in the Western Athletic Conference with the Redhawks from Seattle University. Both teams have seven wins in conference play. The tie was broken as Utah Valley triumphantly defended its home court against Seattle.
“There’s no question that these are some big matches for us,” said head coach Sam Atoa. “We’re excited to be at home because we feel like we’ve been playing well here as of late.”
UVU swept all three games versus Seattle (25-19, 25-23, 25-9). This was a huge win for the Wolverines to put them in in a tie for first with New Mexico State.
It was the second time the Wolverines and the Redhawks had met this season. The previous matchup was Sept. 28. Utah Valley suffered its first WAC loss to Seattle, which provided a chance for revenge in the latest contest.
The Wolverines were coming off two straight wins, one of them a big win over first-place New Mexico State. Looking to keep the momentum up, the Wolverines were determined to break the tie held with Seattle. The Wolverines entered the matchup against the Redhawks with a hitting percentage of .211, a 2.33 block per-set average and 1.28 aces per set.
The showdown of two of the WAC’s best was held at the UVU PE Building Saturday, Oct. 26. After a rough start at the beginning of the season for the Wolverines and Redhawks, both teams have been able to turn around their early losing streaks and sat tied atop the WAC.
Utah Valley was prepared to take on the reigning WAC Player of the Week, Martina Samadan. She led Seattle with 242 kills, an attack percentage of .484 and a kill per-set average of 3.60 coming in.
Samadam and Allison Farley, who led the Redhawks in blocks with a 0.82 per-set average prior to the match, make a talented tandem. Fellow Redhawk Kerry Lane is also crucial to Seattle’s success and entered the match best on the team in assists at 9.40 per set.
“They are still going to be huge challenges for us as they are both very good programs,” Atoa said prior to taking on Seattle and looking ahead to Southern Utah. “But if we can keep our focus where it needs to be and protect our home court, I think we’ll be in pretty good shape.”
Brooklyn Hall, a senior setter, broke Utah Valley’s career assists record against Seattle. She became only the second player in UVU’s history to surpass 4,000 career assists. Hall was able to reach the 4,000-career assist mark early on in the second game with help from Cassie Wahlin who gave the Wolverines their second kill of the match.
Freshman Nakisha Willden lead the Wolverines with 12 kills, Wahlin, a junior, had four blocks with a career-high four aces and Hall had 31 assists, eight digs, and seven blocks.
The Wolverines were able to dominate the Redhawks by tallying seven more team blocks and had a .293 to .058 hitting advantage over Seattle.
UVU followed up the win with another home win against Southern Utah (25-16, 25-14, 25-17) two days later. It was the fourth sweep in five matches for the Wolverines, who moved to 8-8-1 overall, while owning a conference record of 8-3, good for second in the WAC.
Up next for the Wolverines is a trip to the Midwest to take on Kansas City Nov. 2 and Chicago State Nov. 4. UVU then returns home for their third-to-last conference match of the season Nov.7 against Grand Canyon.