A match-high 19 kills from freshman Kazna Tarawhiti and 16 more from sophomore Kristen Allred helped propel the Utah Valley University volleyball team to a 3-1 victory over Idaho State in UVU's home opener on Tuesday evening at Lockhart Arena (25-23, 25-21, 18-25, 25-23).
With the victory, the Wolverines improve to 2-2 on the young season, while the Bengals fall to 2-3 with the loss.
"I'm really happy with how we performed tonight. We appear to play with a little more confidence and determination here at home, and it really seemed to be the difference down the stretch," head UVU coach Sam Atoa said. "We work on these (tightly contested) scenarios in practice, and it was really nice to see the girls be in control of these two and three-point games, especially there at the end."
The freshman Tarawhiti got her first career collegiate double-double by notching 10 digs with her 19 kills. She also added three blocks and a .256 hitting percentage. Preseason All-WAC performer Allred too notched a double-double with 10 digs of her own, while recording a match-high .538 attack percentage with just two hitting errors.
"Kazna did a really nice job of swinging for us there at the end. Both her and Kristen played well tonight. They are both young, with one being a freshman and the other a sophomore, but they played well," Atoa added. "Three of our four pin players either met or exceeded our goals here against Idaho State. That's what we hope to continue to work on and also to keep improving and chipping away at those areas of the game that we need to get better at."
Junior Makaila Jarema and freshman Kaili Downs too performed well for the Wolverines, as they put up respective tallies of seven and six blocks. Junior Madi Wardle led the way for the team in the assist column with a team-high 21, while sophomore Seren Merrill recorded a team-best 13 digs from the back row.
Trailing ISU 17-15 in the opening set, UVU got things going with a 7-0 run to take a 22-17 advantage. Jarema was key for the Wolverines during the stretch with a pair of kills and a block. The Bengals later cut the deficit to just one, at 24-23, thanks to a late 4-1 spurt. With UVU holding to a slim 24-23 advantage, Tarawhiti responded for Utah Valley with a final kill to give the opening set to the Wolverines.
With the second set tied up at 11-11, Utah Valley reeled off a 5-1 run to take a 16-12 lead. Tarawhiti highlighted the spurt for UVU with a trio of kills. The Wolverines went on to stretch their lead to as many as six, 22-16, but ISU threatened late with a 4-1 run of its own to cut the deficit in half at 23-20. Utah Valley again answered, however, with a kill from Allred and a final block assist from Jerema and Downs to take the second set, 25-21, and a 2-0 lead in the match. Tarawhiti paced the Wolverines with nine second-set kills.
Tied up at 10-10 in the third set following a kill from UVU senior Alexis Davies, the Bengals pieced together an 8-1 spurt to take an 18-11 advantage. Utah Valley later pulled to within five, 21-16, following a pair of kills from Allred and an ace from freshman BriAnne Mortensen, but Idaho State answered by scoring four of the final six points to take the third set by a score of 25-18.
In the fourth set, the Bengals looked poised to force a decisive fifth game after taking a 15-12 advantage following a 4-1 run. But back answered UVU with back-to-back-to-back points on kills from Davies and two from Allred to deadlock the score at 16-all. With Idaho State later holding a 22-20 lead, Utah Valley again answered with four unanswered points of its own to take a 24-22 advantage. Downs recorded a kill and a block during the stretch, and the freshman Mortensen capped the stretch with a service ace. ISU countered with a point on a kill from Taylor Meeks to make things interesting at 24-23, but UVU fed Tarawhiti a number of times during a long final rally and the freshman outside hitter finally managed to put one away to help give the Wolverines the set and the match.
As a team, UVU outhit ISU, .236 to .219, as well as outblocked the Bengals, 13.0 to 8.0. ISU senior and former Wolverine Abby Garrity paced the Bengals in the contest with 17 kills.
The victory marks Utah Valley's second consecutive over Idaho State and deadlocks the all-time series at eight wins apiece.
The Wolverines now return to the road to take part in the Oregon Classic this weekend in Eugene, Oregon. There, UVU will face the No. 18 Oregon Ducks (2 p.m. MT) and Arkansas Pine Bluff (7 p.m.) on Friday, as well as Long Beach State on Saturday (12 p.m.). Following the tournament, Utah Valley will return home for an in-state contest against Utah State on Tuesday, Sept. 4, at Lockhart Arena at 6 p.m.