Volleyball: Dennison sets block assist record as UVU clinches 3 seed in WAC tourney

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Photo by Maricel Evangelista

In its final game of the 2017 regular season, the UVU volleyball team took down Chicago State 3-1 (25-27, 25-19, 25-22, 25-19) Saturday. The Wolverines (14-15, 9-5) closed out the season and a two-game home stand, overpowering the Cougars (10-21, 1-13) in a final tune up before the WAC tournament next week in Texas. The win, combined with a New Mexico State victory over Cal State Bakersfield and a Texas- Rio Grande Valley win over Grand Canyon elsewhere in the WAC, secures the No. 3 seed for the Wolverines in next week’s tournament.

“It was a challenge. Chicago State played well,” head coach Sam Atoa said. “Their two outsides did a really nice job and we kind of struggled a a little bit to stop that, and then we made some adjustments and we were able to get things a little bit better.”

The first set began with a brief back-and-forth, neither team able to grab control as the score was tied at 8-8. An attack error by the Cougars’ Carmen Carvajal and a block by Kristen Allred and Brighton Taylor helped spark a 7-1 Wolverine run, but CSU wouldn’t go quietly. A subsequent 13-4 run keyed by six Carvajal kills gave the Cougars a 21-19 lead, prompting a timeout by UVU coach Sam Atoa. Out of the timeout, the two teams traded points until Carvajal sealed the hard fought set with her eighth kill of the match.

The Wolverines came out in the second set determined, as kills from Madison Dennison and Lexi Thompson helped UVU to a 9-5 early lead, forcing a CSU timeout. Again, though, the Cougars did not go away as they hung right with the home team, never going down by more than four points until the late stages of the set. With UVU leading 22-17, Taylor and Megan Boudreaux closed it out with a pair of kills and a block. In the second set, Dennison also recorded her 513th block assist as a Wolverine, giving her the all-time UVU lead.

Dennison said she knew she had a chance to set the record this season but hadn’t been tracking her stats closely.

“I had no clue. Someone told me I had a chance to beat it and I didn’t want to jinx myself so I never looked the whole season,” she said. “If it happens it happens and if it doesn’t it doesn’t, so when it happened I was completely caught off guard. It was awesome.”

“She’s been a delight,” Atoa said. “She’s a perfectionist and I think sometimes it kind of gets in the way of her being able to excel and we’ve had to kind of coach her along that way. But we’re really proud of her. She’s worked really hard.”

The third set had 11 ties and four lead changes. CSU jumped out to a 6-2 lead, but the Wolverines were able to correct course and tie the frame up at 11-11 behind a strong attack from Alexis Davies. UVU took its first lead of the set at 14-13 with a Thompson kill and the back-and-forth continued until a 21-19 CSU lead forced a Wolverine timeout. Dennison and Thompson then combined for four kills and a block and Sierra Starley sealed the 6-1 run to give UVU a 2-1 lead in the match.

In the final set of the match, CSU refused to give way easily to the Wolverines. UVU jumped out to a 6-2 lead, but the Cougars chipped away at the lead, eventually leading 16-13, prompting a UVU timeout. From there, the Wolverines put it out of reach with a 12-3 run to take the set 25-19 and the match 3-1.

UVU was led by Thompson and Dennison with 17 and 15 kills, respectively. Sierra Starley recorded 50 assists and Taylor led the team in blocks with seven.

The next time the Wolverines take the court will be as the No. 3 seed in the conference tournament. Their first round game will get started Nov. 16 at 3:30 MST.