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Weber State gets first-ever NCAA Women’s Volleyball Tournament victory, Utah Valley falls short in first trip to Big Dance

Coach Jeremiah Larsen’s Wildcats roll past Bowling Green 3-1 and will now face No. 1 seed Wisconsin in a second-round match in Omaha, Nebraska.

SHARE Weber State gets first-ever NCAA Women’s Volleyball Tournament victory, Utah Valley falls short in first trip to Big Dance

Weber State plays Bowling Green in the first round of the 2021 NCAA Tournament on April 14, 2021.

Mark Kuhlmann/NCAA Photos

Weber State picked up its first-ever NCAA Women’s Volleyball Tournament victory on Wednesday night, downing Bowling Green 3-1 in a first-round match at Omaha, Neb.

The scores were 25-18, 22-25, 25-22 and 25-21 as the Wildcats entered the tournament for the first time since 1988. Weber State will face overall No. 1 seed Wisconsin in a second-round match on Thursday at 5 p.m. MDT.

“This is a huge day for Weber State volleyball,” said WSU coach Jeremiah Larsen in a virtual news conference after the historic win. “Six years ago we were barely getting by … So just really proud of how our kids handled the pressure and just kept on grinding.”

“This is a huge day for Weber State volleyball. Six years ago we were barely getting by … So just really proud of how our kids handled the pressure and just kept on grinding.” Weber State women’s volleyball coach Jeremiah Larsen.

The Wildcats (19-1) won just six games in Larsen’s first year; Now they are making school history. Seeing as how they will now face the top seed, they were arguably the lowest-regarded team in the 48-team field. Not anymore.

“This was a huge opportunity for Weber State and the Big Sky Conference,” Larsen said.

Dani Nay of Nampa, Idaho, led the way with 18 kills and 14 digs and the Wildcats turned in a season-high of 16 team blocks to knock off the MAC champions. Bowling Green fell to 22-2, its only other loss of the season at Toledo in five sets.

“That’s not an easy team to play and facility is interesting, for sure,” Larsen said. “It plays with your eyes a little bit, so we took some time to try and get used to it, and they have no quit. So just proud of the way we responded to adversity.”

The Big Sky’s conference tournament and regular season champion, Weber State took control midway through the first set, breaking from a 12-12 tie to win going away, 25-18.

Nay, a redshirt sophomore, had seven kills and hit .500 in the first set. The Wildcats closed the set on a 9-2 run.

Nay finished with a .295 hitting percentage. Rylin Adams of Lehi added 14 kills, 11 digs and four blocks. Sam Schiess had 11 kills, while Emma Mangum had seven kills and seven blocks and Caroline Clark had three kills and eight blocks.

Bowling Green overcame a 10-5 deficit in the second set and pulled away late to win 25-22.

“It was just a really good team win,” Larsen said. “We had some ups and downs that we kinda sustained and pushed through. Really proud of their resilience through that adversity.”

Weber State dominated with nine service aces, but also had 10 service errors.

Neither team led by more than two points in the third set until the Wildcats went up 23-20 and eventually took a 25-22 win. The ‘Cats won the set when Adams and Schiess, from Ogden’s Bonneville High, teamed for a block.

Schiess’ block gave Weber State a 5-0 lead in the fourth set, and the Wildcats cruised until a 6-1 run by BGSU late made things a bit interesting. However, the 6-foot-1 Schiess ended the match with a kill and the Wildcats were on to the showdown with the undefeated Badgers (15-0).

“We knew we needed to score and finish the game and put them away, and so I just went up and swung as hard as I could and went after it,” Schiess said. “I think all year we haven’t been a team that ran from a fight, or ran from adversity, and I think it showed in those last few points, especially.”

After BGSU’s 6-1 run cut a big WSU lead to 24-21, Larsen called timeout.

What did he say?

“Oh, I told a joke,” he said, but declined to repeat it to reporters. “I think we realized the moment was at hand. We had the opportunity to do something we have been dreaming about doing since I first took over this program and so I tried to lighten the mood just a little bit, and once that was done we refocused and talked about how we need to be the aggressors here.”

Texas State 3, Utah Valley 1

Utah Valley’s first taste of the NCAA Tournament ended with a 3-1 loss to Sun Belt champion Texas State, which was playing its 39th match dating back to last fall. The Bobcats (31-8) won by scores of 25-21, 25-16, 20-25 and 25-22.

“You always want to keep going and unfortunately sometimes things come to an end,” said UVU coach Sam Atoa. “We felt that it was in our hands for us to advance and we fell short and made a few too many errors after digging ourselves into a hole.”

UVU trailed 19-11 in the fourth set, but clawed back and cut it to 22-21, forcing a TSU timeout. But Texas State scored the final two points of the set to win and advance to a second-round matchup with No. 5 seed Nebraska.

Tori Dorius led the Wolverines with 14 kills and a .355 hitting percentage. Tanuvasa added 11 kills, while Kristen Bell and Kendra Nock had five apiece.

Caitlan Buettner led the Bobcats with 15 kills. Texas State finished with a .238 hitting percentage; UVU’s was .154.

“I was really proud of how hard we fought and how we kept going,” Atoa said. “Any time that the season comes to an end, there is some level of disappointment, but I think we, as a team, are focused on seeing how we can prepare for next season and make this become an every-year opportunity.”