By: Jessica Whalen [email protected]
The inaugural year in the WAC closed for the Wolverines with an 18-15 record and 11-5 in WAC play.
Utah Valley was bounced by Seattle University In the WAC volleyball tournament Nov. 25 in Phoenix, Ariz. The number six seed Seattle overcame a 2-1 deficit to beat out Utah Valley (21-25, 25-22, 25-23, 16-25, 13-15) in five sets.
“Congratulations to Seattle. It was a battle for both teams, but they were just a little bit better than we were tonight,” said head coach Sam Atoa.
Although Utah Valley suffered a loss to the Redhawks, there were three players from the Wolverines who were able to finish with double-digit figures in kills.
Lauren Stringham, a First Team All-Conference performer, and junior Cassie Wahlin lead the Wolverines with 11 kills apiece. Nakisha Willden brought in 10. Brookelyn Hall, the senior setter in her final collegiate contest, had 41 assists with nine digs. Senior Katie Fritzler also had six kills and three blocks in her final college match.
The Wolverines lost the first set 25-21 but were able to bounce back nicely, taking the second and third set. The Wolverines had fallen back 14-11 in the third set and battled on to bring the score within one with back-to-back kills from Stringham and Wahlin, making it 14-13.
The frame stayed tight until Seattle scored three unanswered points, 20-16. Striking right back, Kalani Norris and McKenna Tait each had an ace with Willden adding a couple of kills. This took Utah Valley to their first lead in the third set, 22-21.
The Wolverines were able to hold onto the lead with consecutive kills from Stringham and finished the third set with a 2-1 lead in the match.
“We felt like we had our chances, but we just couldn’t put things away when we had the opportunity,” said Atoa.
The Redhawks responded to the Wolverines’ surge by having streaks of their own. In the fourth set, Utah Valley had a 5-0 run early on to overcome an 8-5 score and taking them to a 10-8 lead. The Redhawks were able to answer back, controlling the frame from there on and taking the fourth set by nine points.
Seattle was able to keep their momentum into the fifth set, jumping out to a 4-0 lead. In an upset, the Redhawks beat the Wolverines 15-13.
“This was our first year in the WAC, and I thought that we did alright,” said Atoa. “We expected to be better, but I felt like it was a good start for us and that we’ll be able to build on it in the future.”
Four of Utah Valley’s Wolverines received 2013 WAC volleyball awards, selected by the league’s nine head coaches.
Stringham, a sophomore middle blocker, and Tait were both named to the First Team All-WAC. Hall, a senior setter, was named to the Second Team All-WAC and Willden was named to the All-Freshman squad.
“Each of the girls [has] worked really hard, and they are well deserving of this honor,” said Atoa. “It is a team sport, and I’m sure that they would all give credit to their teammates for their success. But I’m proud of each of them and what they accomplished.”
The Wolverines are sad they couldn’t come off with a win but were pleased with a third place finish. This was the first time Utah Valley was in the WAC, and they were able to surprise a lot of people.