Utah Valley finished off its regular season with a dominating sweep of WAC-foe Grand Canyon, 3-0 (25-22, 25-17, 25-17) in Lockhart Arena. The Wolverines joined New Mexico State as the only teams in WAC play to defeat every other team in the conference. UVU finishes the season in third place in the WAC and will receive a bye to the semifinals in the WAC tournament where the Wolverines and ’Lopes will meet for a chance to go to the title match.
With the win, UVU ends the regular season 12-5 on the season, including 12-4 in WAC play. The 12 conference wins is the most in school history and is the highest Utah Valley has finished in WAC play since 2016-17. With the loss, the ’Lopes fall to 11-3 on the year and 11-3 in conference play.
“The girls were determined and we talk about each day that, win or lose, there are always learning experiences,” said Utah Valley head volleyball coach Sam Atoa. “Last night was a tough one when we were not far off from winning those tight sets. We were able to execute a lot better today on the pins and hitting .300 makes a huge difference.
“For us, and everyone else, it was a challenging year. Dealing with a lot of challenges that we’ve never had to deal with such as this pandemic, flight cancelations, weather issues, and COVID. I’m really proud of our kids and how flexible they were to be able to adjust to the schedule as things continuously changed. It took a bunch of individuals to buy in and to be all in to make this work. Our success this year has everything to do with what they did on the court, as well as what they did off the court.”
After going back and forth to start the opening set, three-straight kills by Kristen Bell sparked a 6-1 UVU run to take an early 10-4 lead. The ’Lopes countered with a 5-1 run to cut the lead down to 11-9. After Utah Valley pushed its lead out to 19-14, GCU chipped away at the advantage, using a 4-0 run to bring the lead to 19-18. UVU pulled away with a 4-1 run and was able to secure the first set, 25-22.
Both teams exchanged points early before the Wolverines used a 7-1 run to push its lead to 10-4 in the second set. Grand Canyon was able to cut the lead down to 12-8 but UVU responded with four-straight points to take control of the set, 16-8. The ’Lopes were unable to challenge from there as Tori Dorius dominated the set to give UVU a 25-17 set win and extending its lead to 2-0.
UVU got off to quick start in the third set, taking an early 7-3 lead. After GCU trimmed the lead down to 12-10, the Wolverines rattled off three-straight points to extend its lead to 15-10 going into the media timeout. Grand Canyon chipped away at the advantage, cutting the lead down to 19-16, but Utah Valley dominated down the stretch, scoring six of the final seven points as Kaili Downs punctuated the win, 25-17, with a pair of kills for the final two points.
Dorius and Bell led a balance UVU attack, finishing with nine kills each. Kazna Tanuvasa and Downs added eight kills each Jaysa Funk Stratton led the Wolverines with 21 assists. Seren Jardine collected 19 digs and Abbie Miller chipped in 16 assists and tied a season-high with three service aces.
The Wolverines will host the WAC Volleyball Tournament in Lockhart Arena on Thursday through Saturday, April 1-3. The Wolverines will enter as the number three seed and have a bye to the semifinals where UVU will take on Grand Canyon on Friday, April 2, at 2:00 p.m. MT. With a win in the semifinals, Utah Valley would advance to the championship on Saturday, April 3, at 2:00 p.m. MT with a chance to win the school’s first WAC Volleyball championship.
Men’s soccer game canceled
Due to contract tracing and quarantine protocols, Utah Valley University’s scheduled men’s soccer game on Friday at Seattle University has been canceled. Testing within the UVU program also forced the cancellation of Monday’s game against Dixie State and have extended into Friday’s contest.
The Wolverines are scheduled to host San José State next Wednesday, March 31 on Clyde Field at 7 p.m. MT.