UVU volleyball starts big sports weekend off right
Kyle McDonald | Sports editor | @kylesportsbias
Photos courtesy of Byron Harward | @blheye
OREM, Utah — Lauren Bakker became the first Utah Valley University volleyball player to eclipse the 1,000 kill and 500 block mark in a 3-1 win over University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley on Thursday night (23-25, 25-21, 25-18, 25-12).
“Lauren’s a humble kid,” UVU head coach Sam Atoa said. “She doesn’t care about stats and that’s one of the great qualities about her is that she is truly a team player. I don’t know if there’s any words that can express what Lauren means to this team and what she means to me.”
With the win UVU improved to 14-12 overall and 9-4 in the Western Athletic Conference. They are tied with CSU Bakersfield for the No. 2 seed in the WAC standings.
Bakker got the record early as she recorded her 999th kill to help UVU jump out to a 4-1 lead in the first set. She got the record later in the set to help UVU tie it up at 16. She recorded 10 kills and six blocks on the record-breaking night.
“I had no idea so it was cool,” Bakker said. “People don’t tell me these things so I find out through you guys. I really love the coaches and my team and it’s fun to play here.”
Madison Dennison and Abby Jensen also had big nights for the Wolverines. Dennison finished with 13 kills and four blocks while Jensen recorded 11 kills.
The first set was back and forth the majority of the time. UVU jumped out to a 7-2 lead before the Vaqueros rattled off five straight points to tie it up at seven. UVU went on a little 5-0 run of their own only to see the Vaqueros fight back once again to take the lead at 16-15. From there it was back and forth until finally UTRGV scored the final three points of the first set to take it 25-23.
For the rest of the match it was all UVU. UTRGV jumped out to a 15-11 lead in the second set, thanks to Bojana Mitrovic who had a match-high 16 kills but the Wolverines responded by going on a 6-0 run to win the set 25-21.
After a timeout by UVU head coach Sam Atoa after falling behind 5-1 in the third set, UVU woke up and scored five out of the next six points to tie the set up at six. They used an 8-0 run to take a 14-7 lead before UTRGV finally ended the run on an attack error by Abby Jensen. From there on out UVU never let the Vaqueros get closer than six as they took the set 25-18.
In the fourth set, UVU came out swinging. They jumped out to a 7-4 lead thanks to a couple of service aces and attack errors by the Vaqueros. UTRGV came close at 14-12 but the Wolverines put the match away by scoring 11 straight points to take the fourth set 25-12.
“We had a little moment in that second set where we weren’t in sync,” Atoa said. “We were just trying a little too hard. We were able to own the net in the last part of the second and then the third and fourth sets.”
UVU setter Sierra Starley had 32 assists and nine digs respectively in the match.
UVU plays host to WAC regular season champion New Mexico State on senior day on Saturday morning at 11 a.m. MST in the PE Building.
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