Utah Valley University hosted the reigning WAC champions New Mexico State on Thursday, falling to the Aggies 3-1 in the first game of homecoming week. The loss for the Wolverines was their fifth in their last seven games.
Although it isn’t what the Wolverines wanted to begin conference play, there are some positives to be found in playing the conference champs first.
“We were really excited to see what we could do,” said redshirt junior Bailey Christensen. “Sadly we didn’t finish tonight, but we can learn a lot from it and keep going … I think we knew coming into this game that [NMSU] are the ones that beat us in the championship last year. It was a great opportunity that we got to play them in the first game of the WAC.” Christensen led the way for the Wolverines offensively with 11 kills on the night.
Both teams traded points early on in set one. All four lead changes occurred during this set, with both squads being tied up at 10. The Aggies were able to rattle off five straight points, however, to take a commanding lead. UVU could never get within four points after that, and the Aggies pulled away as they maintained a comfortable lead, going on to win their first set 25-19. NMSU did a fantastic job getting the ball up off the ground in the first set, only allowing UVU to hit at a .091 clip.
NMSU built on the momentum they gained from the end of the first set as they jumped out to a 10-4 lead over UVU in the second set. This prompted a timeout by Coach Atoa in order to try and turn around the momentum, but the Aggies continued their dominance as the set went on. NMSU kept their distance for the majority of the second set, with the only two lead changes coming within the first three points. UVU couldn’t get anything going offensively, hitting only .057 during this second set.
The third set, however, couldn’t be more different. After the Aggies leapt out to a 6-2 lead, the Wolverines answered with a huge momentum swing. Throughout the remainder of the third set, the home team outscored the visiting team 23-10, securing UVU’s first victory of the match with a score of 25-16.
The deciding set
The fourth set followed suit much like the first and second. NMSU started on an 11-5 run and, after UVU answered with a 5-0 run of its own, NMSU responded with a 14-4 run the rest of the way.
On to the next one
UVU finished hitting .108 on the night while NMSU hit .241. This is one of the Aggies’ many strengths, who led the WAC in hitting percentage last year when they won the WAC tournament.
“Our team is doing great. I just think we need to shake off errors faster and put the ball away sooner. If we can do that then we’re going to be amazing,” said Christensen about her team not panicking after the loss.
UVU will resume conference play at home when they take on UT Rio Grande Valley on Saturday, with game time set to begin at 1 p.m. MST.