Utah Valley falls short against conference rival Houston Baptist.

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With wins against Texas-Pan America, Houston Baptist and NJIT, the UVU women’s Volleyball team entered Thursday night’s game 4-0 in conference play while winning six consecutive matches. But Houston Baptist was looking for revenge after falling to UVU on Oct. 6,  as they pulled away with the 3-1 (25-15, 17-25, 17-25, 21-25) victory over Utah Valley Thursday night. The loss put the Wolverines at 4-1 in conference play.
Thursday night’s game was held as UVU’s annual Pink For a Purpose match where all proceeds being raised were going to the Lori Richards Memorial Scholarship Fund. Richards, a former UVU women’s volleyball coach of 18 years, passed away earlier this year from cancer.
During the first set, senior Erica Nish was the first on the board. The contest seemed to be neck-and-neck as the kills were shared back and forth from UVU to HBU. It wasn’t until a few errors by Houston Baptist and kills from nationally ranked Lauren Stringham and Brookelyn Hall, along with a service ace from McKenna Tait that UVU started to pull ahead at around 12-7. The 10 total errors from HBU in the first set helped UVU finish set win 25-15.
In the second set, Utah Valley had the game tied at 5-5. A kill from HBU in UVU’s backcourt started a scoring streak that brought Houston Baptist to lead 14-9 before UVU head coach Sam Atoa called a time out. Utah Vally failed to gain much momentum after scoring their sideouts. Down at 11-16, Utah Valley’s Bailey Farris came into the game and served her first kill right out of the gate putting them 12-17. Since that time, UVU only gained five extra points. Nish and Stringham were the only two players to earn more than one kill in the second set and UVU lost it 17-25.
“They played well, they sided-out at a high percentage and we didn’t do that and we couldn’t stop them,” said Atoa. “You can’t take that away from Houston Baptist. They knew what they absolutely had to do, we stole one from them and they come in here and stole one from us.”
A kill from Norris and a Houston error gave Utah Valley a quick two points in the third set. They stayed there until Atoa called a time out with the score at 2-7. The momentum didn’t change much for Utah Valley after that and they lost the set 17-25 with only one lead change.
The momentum started off much stronger in the fourth set as Utah Valley was able to take off to a quick 10-7 lead after they capitalized on their possessions. Utah Valley scored their biggest lead over HBU since the first set at 12-7. The lead was lost when a UVU serve error gave Houston the sideout, following witch, the Huskies had two quick kills and eventually pulled away 12-14 before an Atoa timeout. At one point, Utah Valley had the Huskies in their site but just short at 21-22. HBU was able to finish the fourth set 21-25 giving them the 3-1 match victory.
“We’ve been in those situations before and I thought we looked like we were going to do it,” said Atoa. “But we didn’t which was disappointing on a night that you dedicate to Lori Richards and we had a good crowd. There was a good spirit here and we just fell short.”
Utah Valley will now have a full week off before going onto the road to finish two more conference games against NJIT and Chicago State. The Wolverines will then prepare to host the Great West Conference Tournament from Nov. 16-17.