After losing the first two sets of the match, the Wolverines had a fire lit under them and came back to win the next three sets against UT Rio Grande Valley. Utah Valley took the victory over the Vaqueros on Saturday afternoon with a score of 3-2. The energy level was insane at Lockhart Arena as UVU fought their way back to win.
Wolverine sophomore outside hitter Kazna Tarawhiti was unstoppable as she finished the game with 19 kills, six blocks and two aces. Senior middle blocker Jasmine Niutupuivaha and senior middle blocker Megan Childs also had outstanding performances. Childs tallying 11 kills and Niutupuivaha ending with seven kills and five blocks. Sophomore middle blocker Sadie Hamson was the leader in blocks, with six total.
Sets one and two
Set one and two didn’t necessarily go as planned for the Wolverines. Despite starting each with a lead, the Vaqueros pulled through and won both sets, leaving UVU looking a little discouraged. In between sets, the Wolverines went back to the locker room to chat, and came out looking like a whole new team. The next three sets proved they were gritty and ready to fight.
“We’ve talked a lot about what we need to do, and it just came down to executing,” said Tarawhiti. “We all knew what our jobs were, but when it came to the third set, we all said, ‘It’s time for us to actually execute.’”
Set three and four
Tarawhiti started off the rally for the Wolverines in the third set with two kills to get the intensity up. UTRGV was confused as UVU continued to score. After a score of 17-9 for UVU and a timeout, Niutupuivaha and sophomore right side hitter Kaili Downs came through with blocks and kills to finish the set with a 25-9 win.
The fourth set was heated, going back-and-forth between both teams. Although there were moments when the Vaqueros gained momentum, UVU was able to refocus and regain a lead. Childs and Tarawhiti had the eye of the tiger, leaving UTRGV unsure of how to dig their kills. The final in the fourth set was 25-22, which was finished by Tarawhiti with a slam to the six-foot line. That got the Wolverines hyped and ready to head into the final set.
“The first two sets were not my best, but I didn’t want that to affect the rest of the game,” Tarawhiti said. “I just switched my mindset, which is sometimes hard for me, but everyone was there to back me up and that was really helpful going into the final sets.”
The final set and looking ahead
The Wolverines maintained their momentum in the fifth set, never losing the lead. Freshman outside hitter Tori Dorius came up with some big kills that put UVU on top, and ended the set by a score of 15-9. Junior labero Seren Merrill also had a spectacular afternoon, ending with 23 digs. The grittiness of the Wolverine volleyball team was confirmed with this victory.
UVU will continue conference play with two away matches. The first at CSU, Bakersfield on Thursday, Oct. 3, and the second at Grand Canyon on Saturday, Oct. 5. Their next home match will be Thursday, Oct. 10 at 11 a.m. against University of Missouri-Kansas City.