Bakker, Steiner lead the way in huge victory for Wolverines
Kyle Bruderer | Sports writer | @Brudkyle
OREM, Utah – The Utah Valley University volleyball team improved to 10-10 overall and 6-2 in conference play with a dominating 3-1 victory over the Kangaroos of Missouri-Kansas City on Thursday night in the PE Building (25-14, 25-22, 23-25, 25-19).
The Wolverines have now won four consecutive home victories putting them in second place in the Western Athletic Conference standings behind only New Mexico State. UMKC is the defending champions and were picked by media members and coaches to repeat as conference champions, but they find themselves currently in fourth place with a conference record of 4-4.
“They were superb with the way that they controlled this match, I was really proud of them,” said head coach Sam Atoa. “I was really pleased by the way that we were playing in our offense. UMKC runs a very quick offense and they try to attack the outside, but I feel like we did a nice job of allowing ourselves to side out.”
The first set was a Kangaroo massacre as the Wolverines never trailed and held UMKC to a .077 hitting percentage while in turn posting a .636 percent to add insult to injury. UMKC is currently ranked 13 nationally in digs per set, but they struggled to get underneath kills from Lauren Bakker and the Wolverines.
UMKC was able to shake off their blowout loss in the first set by taking a 14-10 lead midway through the second. After a UVU timeout the Wolverines came storming back and managed to tie it up at 17-17, UVU ultimately took the set, 25-22.
In the third set UVU opened up a 7-0 lead and appeared to be on their way to a three set sweep at home. A comfortable 17-10 UVU lead quickly disappeared when UMKC put together an 8-0 run to take the lead 17-18. The two teams then traded blows which included three lead changes and the Kangaroos capped off an impressive comeback victory, 25-23.
After missing an opportunity to sweep UMKC, the Wolverines entered the fourth set in attack mode opening a 15-6 lead. UVU led by as many as 11 points and held off a late run by UMKC to win the match, 25-19.
Freshman Abby Jensen led the Wolverines with 13 kills while senior Lauren Bakker and sophomore Lexi Thompson each recorded 12. Sophomore Madison Dennison also chipped in with nine of her own. Bakker and junior Kiahna Steiner showed why UVU leads the WAC in blocks by each recording seven in the match. Sophomore Sierra Starley dished out 44 assists and freshman Sabrina Tanner recorded 18 digs in the win.
“Our goals never change whether we win or lose,” Atoa said. “My job is to continue to remind them of what those goals are and what we need to do every day to get a little bit better and not get complacent, especially when we’re doing such a nice job.”
The Wolverines host Chicago State on Saturday in the PE Building at 1 p.m. MT and will be broadcast live on the WAC Digital Network.