The Utah Valley University volleyball team picked up its first win of the 2017 season on Tuesday evening with a 3-0 sweep over in-state foe Southern Utah at SUU's Centrum Arena in Cedar City (25-18, 25-15, 25-22).
Lexi Thompson led the way for the Wolverine (1-3) offense with a match-high 11 kills and a .243 attack percentage. Kristen Allred and Madison Dennison were next with nine kills apiece. Allred also finished just one kill shy of her first collegiate double-double by adding 11 digs, while Dennison chipped in five blocks. Jasmine Niutupuivaha led the way for UVU at the net by tying a career-high with six blocks while Sierra Starley posted a match-high 36 assists.
"The girls did a nice job of sticking to the game plan tonight, and we were fortunate enough to get off to a strong start in each set. Even when things got tight late in the match, we did a nice job of staying composed," head coach Sam Atoa said. "I'm really happy that we were able to get our first win on the road in front of a hostile crowd, and it's nice to see the girls improve in some areas of the game that we struggled with over the weekend."
With SUU (1-4) holding to an early 6-4 lead in the opening set, the Wolverines countered back with five unanswered points to take a 9-6 advantage. The senior Thompson led the spurt for UVU with a trio of kills. Leading by just a point at 14-13, Utah Valley managed to reel off a key 7-1 run to give the Wolverines a 21-14 advantage. UVU went on to take the opening set by a score of 25-18 following a Dennison and Starley block assist. Thompson paced the Wolverine attack in the first set with six kills and an even .500 hitting percentage.
Utah Valley continued to hold the upper hand in the second frame, as it jumped out to an early 10-4 advantage that was capped by an Izzie Hinton kill. The freshman Allred led the quick second-set run with three kills. With the Wolverines later holding a 16-11 lead, UVU drove home three-straight points to extend its lead to eight at 19-11. Up 22-15, the Wolverines then put the set away, at 25-15, after scoring back-to-back-to-back points. Dennison and Hinton led the rally with a respective kill and service ace.
With the Wolverines leading 8-5 early in the third stanza, SUU countered back with three-consecutive points to tie the score at 8-8. Deadlocked at 9-9, UVU reeled off four unanswered points to regain a 13-9 advantage, but back answered the T-Birds with a 5-1 run of their own to tie the score once again at 14-all. The set then stayed tight from there as the two in-state foes later found themselves deadlocked up late at 21-21. Allred then helped UVU respond by driving home three of the final five points via kills to help the Wolverines take the set, 25-22, and the match in straight sets.
Janet Kalaniuvalu and former Wolverine Macky Fifita paced the Thunderbirds on the night with nine kills apiece.
As a team, UVU outhit the T-Birds, .243 to .103, as well as out-blocked them, 11.0 to 7.0.
The victory marked Utah Valley's eighth in 10 tries against SUU, as it moved to 8-2 all-time against the Thunderbirds.
UVU now returns home to host the 2017 Wolverine Invitational this weekend at Lockhart Arena. Utah Valley first faces off against No. 9 Kansas on Thursday, Aug. 31, at 7 p.m., before taking on Montana on Friday at 5 p.m. UVU finishes the weekend against Long Beach State on Saturday at noon.
James Warnick is an assistant sports information director at Utah Valley University. For more information about Wolverine athletics, visit WolverineGreen.com.