Fifita and Bakker ready to lead Wolverines
Jace Patrick | Sports writer | @JaceAnytime
Photo Credit: UVU Athletic Department
After dropping a heartbreaker to Seattle University in the 2014 Western Athletic Conference volleyball tournament to end their season, the Utah Valley University Wolverines are anxious to get back out on the court and start a new season.
The Wolverines return four starters from the 2014 squad that finished 14-18 overall and tied for fourth in the WAC with an 8-6 record. They return All-WAC performers Lauren Bakker and Macky Fifita (formerly Treanor). They are also returning 10 letterwinners. Head Coach Sam Atoa knows that having experienced players returning is a key to helping the program continue to progress and that sometimes having an up and down season is a good thing for his team.
“We got some good experience last year,” Atoa said. “There were some areas we struggled at with inexperience and this year we’re coming back with a year of experience.”
The Wolverines will rely heavily on Bakker and Fifita and the returning letterwinners especially with a schedule where the first 11 matches are away from home. Their first home match is on September 19 against neighboring rival BYU, who was last year’s national runner-up.
Atoa knows that his team struggled with inconsistency throughout the 2014 campaign and the Seattle match in the WAC Tournament is a great example of that. UVU won the first set, lost the second and third sets, and then dominated the fourth set to tie the match up. They had a 14-10 lead and were at match point before surrendering five straight points to Seattle, giving them the lead. The match went back and forth until Seattle final finished off the match at 19-17.
“Our consistency has to improve and that certainly needs to get better,” Atoa said. “Some of our girls just don’t have the experience yet and we’ll have to work with that.”
The season opens at the Pepperdine Asics Classic in Malibu where they will face UC Santa Barbara, Pepperdine, and Incarnate Word. They follow that up with a trip to Pocatello to take on Idaho State and three days later travel to Fargo, North Dakota to compete in the NDSU Invitational. They will take on Milwaukee, North Dakota State, and Towson at the Invitational. One week after that, they travel to Pac-12 country where they will compete against Ball State, Morehead State, and Washington State in the Washington State Cougar Challenge in Pullman, Washington. Their final road game to open the season is against Utah State before returning home to face BYU.
It won’t be an easy start to the season especially considering the Wolverines are starting a freshman, but Atoa believes that his team is capable of performing at a high level.
“We’re starting a freshman so that will always be a concern,” Atoa said. “Having a four year starter and then going to a freshman but we have leadership and our kids are buying into what we’re doing which will help us throughout the season.”