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UVSC fall sports had highs, lows

Women's soccer struggled as cross country excelled

OREM — As fall becomes winter, so too do collegiate athletic seasons change.

Now November, the end is near for Utah Valley State women's volleyball and soccer; men's and women's cross country have already run their last race. Conversely, wrestling and men's and women's basketball commence their respective seasons with clean slates and high hopes.

WOMEN'S VOLLEYBALL: Coach Sam Atoa's Wolverines have been the class of UVSC athletics so far this year. Sporting an 11-11 record heading into play today, the Wolverines have a good shot to finish over .500 in only their third season competing on the Division I level.

MVP: Lacee Koelliker, junior setter. A steadying force on a very young team, Koelliker impeccably gets quality sets to her hitters on a consistent basis. Also the team' premier server, Koelliker will notch a several kills every match by catching the opposition off-guard and dumping the ball over the net instead of setting it.

Honorable mention: Jessica Endres, sophomore middle blocker. Rock-solid in the middle all year long, Endres improved on a solid freshman year by increasing her numbers across the board. She set a school record with a .773 hitting percentage in a September match against North Dakota State.

Freshman of the year: Camie Manwill, outside hitter. At the season's outset, Manwill was hit-or-miss, seemingly just as likely to resoundingly slam home a spike as she was to serve into the net at the most inopportune moment. As the year has progressed, however, Manwill has appeared more and more at ease while contributing on a more consistent basis. She is very athletic, with good lateral agility and a nice vertical jump. With the departure of senior outside hitter Anne Olsen, the Wolverines will depend heavily on Manwill next year.

Question heading into next season: Just how good can UVSC be in 2006? With only two seniors graduating, the Wolverines appear poised to turn some heads with a breakout season next year if they can improve on this season' performance.

WOMEN'S SOCCER: It's been a season of heartbreak for the Wolverines, with seven of their 11 losses coming by one goal. After going 6-9-3 last year, the team is 6-11 this fall.

MVP: Jenni Wright, freshman midfielder. This 5-foot-1 Bingham High graduate has made a huge impact for UVSC, tallying a team-high eight goals. Her scoring has been even more valuable with the injury to senior captain Carolyn Theurer.

Newcomer of the year: Courtney Asay-Robbins, junior midfielder. The 4A Player of the Year while prepping at Mountain View, Robbins transferred from BYU to UVSC prior to the beginning of the season. In addition to her playmaking ability, Robbins brought an air of experience and confidence to an unproven Wolverines squad.

Question heading into next season: Is Justin Wagar the best long-term solution at head coach for the Wolverines? With Wagar still bearing the "interim head coach" label, it goes to say that his performance will be scrutinized by the Utah Valley State administration before the word "interim" is lifted from his title. Not too far removed from his own playing career, Wagar is able to relate to his players in ways an older coach could not. With all the close losses — some of which actually saw UVSC clearly outplay its opponent — and failure to improve on last year's record despite a serious infusion of new talent, questions remain whether Wagar is a Division I-caliber coach.

CROSS COUNTRY: The Wolverines have been steady if not spectacular under coach Scott Houle. Several runners have taken turns pacing UVSC while depth has been an asset — especially on the women's side. All cross country runners will be competing for Houle come January in track and field.

Men's MVP: Joe Bendoski, junior. The Provo alumnus started out the year strong, placing fourth at the BYU Autumn Classic and second at the Montana State Invitational. A back injury, however, limited Bendoski' effectiveness, and his times dropped off considerably as the year wore on.

Women's MVP: Kim Rowberry, freshman. Rowberry landed at UVSC after a stellar prep career down the road at Timpview. She finished second at both the Big Green Invite and Southern Utah Invitational in a one-month span where she was the top-finishing Wolverine woman four consecutive times out.

Question heading into next year: Who — if anyone — will step up to lead the UVSC cross country teams? Houle has done an outstanding job of recruiting enough quality runners to build some depth, but to date none of those runners has emerged as a clear-cut team leader. Bendoski and Rowberry seem the most likely runners to emerge from the pack so to speak, but since they only finished second and third, respectively, among their teammates at the Independent Championships last week, they can't yet be anointed as undisputed number-one runners. If healthy, Bendoski should dominate next year.

MEN'S CROSS COUNTRY: Sophomore Mark Lott ran the five-mile course in 25:30 seconds to finish ninth individually and lead UVSC to a fourth-place team showing at the Independent Championships. Bendoski and Pleasant Grove grad Ryan Gurr finished 16th and 17th, respectively, less than one second apart.

WOMEN'S CROSS COUNTRY: The Wolverines finished fifth out of nine teams Saturday at the Independent Championships. Junior Bekah Meier-Poppinga's 21st-place showing led the women, and the other four scoring runners for UVSC all crossed the line within 33 seconds of Poppinga's 18:09 finish.

WOMEN'S VOLLEYBALL: The Wolverines split two five-game matches on the road last week, falling to Texas-Pan American on Friday before edging Texas A&M-Corpus Christi on Saturday. Manwill recorded double-doubles in kills and digs in both matches. Women's soccer: UVSC won two home matches to up its record to 6-11. Defeated IPFW 3-2 in two overtimes Thursday and destroyed Delaware State 11-0 on Saturday. Wright notched two goals in each contest.

ON TAP: men's basketball — idle. Women's basketball — exhibition vs. Western State, 7:05 p.m. Saturday. men's golf — at Cal State Northridge Tournament, Tuesday and Wednesday. Women's golf — at Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo Tournament, Tuesday and Wednesday. Women's soccer — at United Soccer Conference Tournament in Fort Wayne, Ind., Friday through Sunday. Women's volleyball — vs. North Dakota State, 7 p.m. tonight; vs. South Dakota State, 7 p.m. Friday.


E-mail: jaskar@desnews.com