The Utah Valley University volleyball team will welcome Idaho State to town for its 2018 home opener on Tuesday at 6 p.m., at UVU's Lockhart Arena.
The Wolverines enter the contest with a 1-2 record on the young season after winning one of three contests at the season-opening UC Davis Aggie Invitational in Northern California this last weekend. UVU first recorded a three-set sweep over Holy Cross on Aug. 24 (25-22, 25-19, 25-22), before falling to the host Aggies in straight sets later that evening (19-25, 17-25, 18-25) and capping the opening tournament with a five-set loss to Northern Arizona on Saturday (31-29, 18-25, 22-25, 25-19, 16-18).
Preseason All-WAC selection Kristen Allred led the Wolverines by earning UC Davis Aggie Invite All-Tournament Team honors after tallying 37 kills (3.55 kps), 21 digs (1.91 dps), three blocks and three service aces during the weekend. She also capped the opening tournament with a career-high 19 kills in Saturday's five-set battle against the Lumberjacks. Freshman Kazna Tarawhiti and Kaili Downs too played well for the Wolverines offensively by recording respective tallies of 27 (3.00 kps) and 21 kills (1.91 kps). Junior transfer Makaila Jarema also had a nice opening weekend by recording 17 kills (1.55 kps) and 16 blocks (1.45 bps).
After falling behind two sets to one to Northern Arizona in the tournament finale, UVU rallied to win the fourth set, 25-19, to force a decisive fifth game. NAU then took an early 10-4 advantage in the final set, but the Wolverines answered right back with six-straight points to tie the set at 10-10. The Lumberjacks later took a 14-12 match-point advantage, but again UVU countered with consecutive points to deadlock the score at 14-all and force the match to continue past 15. With the contest tied at 16-all, NAU put the contest away with back-to-back points.
Besides Allred's career-best 19 kills, Davies and Downs too had nice outings for UVU with 10 kills apiece. Jarema also added seven kills and a team-high seven blocks, while sophomore Seren Merrill finished one dig shy of her career-high with 26. Junior Madi Wardle and freshman BriAnne Mortensen each recorded double-doubles, with respective tallies of 30 assists and 11 digs and 13 assists and 12 digs.
Seven newcomers saw action during the weekend for the new-look Wolverines, and four newcomers also recorded their first collegiate starts in a UVU uniform in Downs (RS), Jarema (MB), Tarawhiti (OH) and Mortensen (S).
Atoa closing in on win number 400
After recording the victory over Holy Cross, head Utah Valley volleyball coach Sam Atoa enters the week just nine wins shy of recording his 400th career victory. Atoa, who is currently in his 20th season as UVU's head coach, currently has a 391-223 career record (.637 winning percentage). Atoa, who earned WAC Coach of the Year honors in 2016, holds a 253-192 mark during his 16 seasons of coaching Utah Valley at the NCAA Division I level, as well as a 138-31 clip during his four seasons of coaching the Wolverines during the school's NJCAA era.
About Idaho State
The Bengals come to Orem with a 2-2 record on the young season after splitting four matches at the season-opening Georgia Tech Hyatt Regency Invitational during the weekend. After dropping its first two matches to Georgia Tech and Georgetown, ISU recorded wins over Winthrop and Abilene Christian on Saturday. After going 11-19 overall a season ago and 8-8 in the Big Sky, Idaho State was picked to finish seventh in the Big Sky Preseason Coaches' Poll this year.
Utah Valley transfer Abby Garrity, who earned WAC Freshman of the Year honors in a Wolverine uniform during her freshman season in 2015, leads the Bengals on the year with 64 kills, a 3.37 kills per set average and a .232 hitting percentage. Garrity was also tabbed to the Hyatt Regency Invitational All-Tournament Team last weekend, as well as earned ISU's U.S. Bank Bengal Athlete of the Week honors on Monday. Brooke Pehrson leads Idaho State at the net with 28 blocks and a 1.47 blocks per set average.
Tuesday's contest will mark the 16th all-time meeting between the Wolverines and Bengals. ISU enters play holding a slight 8-7 series advantage and having won five of the last six meetings. Utah Valley did win the last meeting, however, with a 3-1 victory in Pocatello last September.
Up next for UVU
The Wolverines return to the road to take part in the Oregon Classic at Pac-12 foe Oregon this weekend, Aug. 31-Sept. 1. There, UVU will face the No. 18 Oregon Ducks and Arkansas Pine Bluff on Friday, and then Long Beach State on Saturday. Following the tournament, UVU will return home to host in-state foe Utah State on Tuesday, Sept. 4, at 6 p.m.