The road is never the best place to gain confidence, grow as a team, or start a season-long winning streak, but that didn’t stop Utah Valley’s volleyball team (11-5) from doing all three.
The nine straight road games didn’t start very well for the Wolverines. After dropping their last home contest in five games to Arizona State, UVSC lost three more matches in a row at the Michigan/Nike Invitational in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
The time away from home had just begun, but it was just about to turn to the team’s favor.
The usual suspects of Jessica Endres and Camie Manwill helped the struggling Wolverines earn a 3-1 win at Idaho State that catapulted the team into winning ways.
"We needed to get back on track and a lot of times, it takes wins for us to be satisfied at where we’re at," Utah Valley Coach Sam Atoa said. "We didn’t want to have go through another loss. We felt we were much better than what we had performed."
From there, it’s been smooth sailing.
"We came together as a team," three-year starter Endres said. "It was a good feeling we had in Idaho and we kept it going."
Montana State fell next to Utah Valley, another win on a Big Sky opponent’s home court.
With six wins in row before the team played host to Texas Pan American, the players are riding high and feeling like anything can happen this season.
Even though the team has confidence from the win streak, Atoa knows there is still room for improvement.
"We are trying to help each of the players with their individual games and helping them contribute in the way that they can," Atoa said.
They believe a win this week at the Smith Fieldhouse against No. 23 BYU is possible.
"This being my senior year, I want it so bad. We’re going to have to be pumped up and play our best game," Endres said.
The Cougars have been on the road as much as UVSC, with eight of their last nine games away from Provo. BYU faced Mountain West Conference opponents TCU and New Mexico over the weekend and their only home loss this year came against Colorado State in five games.
"We hope we can play a solid physical game and hope we have the mental capacity to compete with them," Atoa said. "It’s always a challenge when you’re playing great teams like BYU, Utah and others. It’s always what mental state you are in, and if you are prepared for that competition."
Last year BYU played at Utah Valley, and despite three close games (30-26. 30-28. 30-28), the Cougars then ranked No. 19 swept the match. And even with the loss, the match gave the Wolverines confidence knowing they could play so close to one of the nation’s best teams.
"We set that bar last year, and this year we have to match it or go higher," Endres said.
Atoa added, "We’re confident in our abilities and if we prepare […] who knows what will happen."