Less than 24 hours after sweeping UMBC in the BYU Invitational opener, the Utah Valley University volleyball team battled against No. 5 Washington and fell in straight sets (25-14, 25-19, 25-23) at the BYU Smith Fieldhouse on Saturday morning. The Wolverines conclude the tournament against its second straight top-10 opponent of the day when they face off against No. 10 BYU at 7 p.m.
“It was a great effort by our team. The girls came fired up and ready to play,” UVU head coach Sam Atoa said. “This was the best we’ve looked all season, in terms of energy and how we performed. I feel like the girls are learning some things and I was really proud of their effort against an elite top-five team like Washington.”
The Wolverines (1-5) scored three straight points in the early stages of the first set against the 2013 Pac-12 Champion Huskies (5-0) to pull to within one, 7-6. Sophomore Macky Treanor led the spurt with a kill and a block. UW, which made it to the Final Four at the NCAA Tournament a year ago, then responded by scoring seven of the next eight points to take a 14-7 advantage. Washington held the lead from there as it went on to take the opener by 11 points.
The Wolverines kept it close in the second set as they stayed right with the ranked Huskies in the frame. After a big block assist from junior Lauren Bakker and senior Kalani Norris, UVU found itself trailing UW by just a point at 14-13. A kill from the 2013 Player of the Year Krista Vansant later ignited the Huskies as they went on to take the set, 25-19.
Despite dropping the second frame, senior Cassie Wahlin and Bakker each recorded three kills apiece for the Wolverines.
UVU responded in the third set as it jumped out to an early 5-2 advantage. Sophomore Nakisha Willden led the spurt with a pair of kills and a service ace.
Washington countered right back in the third as it quickly tied it at 6-all, but the set remained close from there. UW later pieced together an 8-2 run to take a 20-14 lead. UVU tried to stage a late comeback as it cut the deficit to one, 23-22, but Washington managed to score two of the next three points to win the tightly contested set, 25-23. Willden led the late Wolverine run with three of her nine third-set kills during the stretch.
With her big third set, Willden paced the Wolverines in the contest with 11 kills, while Bakker and Wahlin added seven apiece. Starley too had a nice match for UVU as she put up a match-high 29 assists while also chipping in eight digs.
Vansant led the Huskies with 13 kills and a .429 attack percentage.
The contest marked UVU’s highest nationally ranked opponent that it has ever faced at the Division I level.
Following Saturday evening’s conclusion of the BYU Invitational, the Wolverines will take on their second straight in-state foe on Tuesday as they face Utah at Crimson Court in Salt Lake City. UVU will then continue its 11-match road stretch at the Mean Green Classic in Denton, Texas, next weekend.
James Warnick is an assistant sports information director at Utah Valley University. For more information about Wolverine athletics, visit WolverineGreen.com.