Photo by Maricel Evangelista
Fifteen games into the season, the UVU volleyball team finds itself sitting at 5-10 with the conference schedule looming on the horizon. The team has experienced its share of highs and lows as the current season has been one of streaks thus far.
UVU opened the season on the road, participating in the San Jose State/University of San Francisco Invitational Tournament in California. The Wolverines left the tournament with a trio of defeats and a list of things to work on. Improvements were evidently made before the team traveled to Cedar City the following week. The Wolverines earned their first victory of the season, a 3-0 beat down over Southern Utah.
Following the impressive win over an in-state rival, the team returned home to host the annual Wolverine Invitational. After a tournament opening loss to the No. 9 Kansas Jayhawks, UVU finished up the tournament with a pair of victories over Montana and Long Beach State. Consecutive road wins over Idaho State and Utah State gave the Wolverines a four-game win streak as they headed out to Texas to take part in the TCU Fight in the Fort Tournament.
The team was abruptly brought down to earth in the opening match of the tournament as Lehigh University swept the Wolverines 3-0. Following a hotly contested 3-2 loss to Duke and another 3-0 sweep, this time at the hands of TCU, the Wolverines exited another tournament without a victory.
Next up for the team was a set in-state showdowns with Weber State in Ogden followed by No. 16 Utah and No. 14 BYU at home. Perhaps drained from the brutal schedule they faced in Texas, the Wolverines fell to the 2-9 Wildcats. Though they also lost to the Utes and Cougars, they were able to take a set from each nationally ranked team. The Wolverines gave the Cougars all they could handle for three sets before running out of gas in the fourth. Regardless, they found themselves on a six-game losing streak exiting nonconference play.
Recording season-high strings of wins and subsequently losses over the course of two weeks has shown the Wolverines both ends of the spectrum during the nonconference portion of its schedule, perhaps leaving questions as to the identity of the team.
After finishing in a second-place tie in the WAC last season, UVU was picked to finish third in the conference in 2017. The team has different ideas, though, as these players have their eyes set on winning both the WAC regular season championship and the postseason tournament.
To accomplish such lofty goals, they will need continued production from their three preseason all-conference selections: Seniors Madison Dennison, Sierra Starley and Lexi Thompson. Last season’s team leader in kills, Thompson is pacing the Wolverines once again with 183 kills followed closely by Dennison who has scored 156 of her own while Starley has recorded 567 assists on the season.
The three have proven their ability to carry their respective loads, as they have each performed well in big moments. However, for the Wolverines to reach the next level, another star will likely have to rise over the latter half of the season. Who that might be remains to be seen.
The pieces certainly seem to be in place as the Wolverines are not wanting for talent and have shown flashes of championship-level play. Consistency seems to have been the issue for UVU thus far during the season, but with the ascension of one or more yet unknown stars and more consistency over the second half, we might yet see the Wolverines hoisting a trophy at season’s end.