OREM, Utah—In a battle for the second seed in next week’s Western Athletic Conference Volleyball Tournament, Utah Valley held off a furious CSU Bakersfield rally 3-2. As a result of the victory, the Wolverines earned the second seed and the bye that the No. 2 seed receives for the WAC tournament.
The teams played to five ties in the early portion of the first set before the Wolverines scored four in a row for a 9-5 lead. Utah Valley would lead by as many as seven in the opener before CSUB cut the lead to 19-15. The Wolverines would score the next two of the next three and would go onto a 25-18 victory.
The Roadrunners took a 9-7 lead to start the second set before Utah Valley put together a 10-2 run that would prove to be the difference. UVU took the lead and would take a 2-0 lead in to halftime 25-17.
CSUB would open the third by scoring six of the first eight points to force a UVU timeout. The ‘Runners would push the lead to 9-4 before Utah Valley scored three straight. CSUB sided out before recorded four straight on Addy Peters’ serve. The Wolverines called their final timeout of the set, recorded a side out of their own and would score four straight and resulted in a CSUB timeout. UVU would record five in a row before Carol Grasso returned the serve to CSUB with a kill.
The teams would trade kills. At 16-14, the Roadrunners went for two straight and would push the lead to 20-15 on a UVU hitting error. The Wolverines fought back for the next two prior to a Kortney Freeland kill. The Roadrunners took advantage of three UVU unforced errors down the stretch to earn set point at 24-21. Katie Dunbar-Lowe’s kill secured the set win for the ‘Runners.
CSUB battled to a 9-6 lead early in the fourth set. Utah Valley would battle back and draw to within one on two different occasions before the ‘Runners would advance the lead to 17-14, resulting in a UVU timeout. The Roadrunners would get up 23-18 when the Wolverines scored back-to-back points. CSUB called timeout. Returning to the court, a UVU service error created four set points. Marina Sanches and Dunbar-Lowe blocked a Kiahna Vernon attack to force a fifth set 25-20.
CSUB scored first in the final set on a Sydney Haynes’ kill. After a UVU ball handling error, the Wolverines got on the board with an Izzie Hinton kill. Nakisha Wilden tied the set with a service ace, but her ensuing service attempt went into the net. Lexi Thompson tied the set at three with a kill. Grasso and Sierra Stanley traded kills for a 4-4 score. A UVU blocking error credited Dunbar-Lowe with a kill and a 5-4 ‘Runner lead. Madison Dennison tied the set with a kill on the next UVU offensive play.
The Roadrunners went to Freeland on the outside and she responded with a kill. A CSUB service error tied the set at six. Vernon returned the lead to the Wolverines with a kill at 7-6. The ‘Runners ran a play for Sanches in the middle and the 6-3 middle hitter put down a kill to tie the score. Vernon and Brighton Taylor blocked Grasso on the outside for an 8-7 UVU advantage.
The Wolverines extended the lead on a Marija Martinovic service ace. Grasso recorded a kill to cut it one before Thompson again made it a two-point lead with a kill. Thompson and Dennison blocked Haynes to create a three-point UVU lead as CSUB called timeout. Two consecutive Grasso kills out of the timeout made it a one-point set. The Wolverines sided out on a Dennison kill. Grasso returned the favor with a kill of her own.
A Thompson hitting error tied the set at 12. UVU called timeout to regroup and scored off a CSUB service error. The Wolverines earned match point on a Dennison kill and took the match 15-12 when Dennison and Vernon blocked Dunbar-Lowe during the final rally of the match.
Thompson tallied 11 kills in her first 15 hitting attempts would lead UVU players with 21 on the day. She hit .425 on the day (21-4-40). Dennison had 11 kills while Vernon posted 10. Taylor recorded 11 blocks. As a team, the Wolverines would only commit 11 hitting errors in 146 attempts for a .315 percentage (57-11-146).
Grasso’s 27 kills were the third most in a match by a CSUB player since CSUB moved to the Division I level. She recorded her 14th double-double of the year with 13 digs. Grasso would hit .429 for the match (27-6-49). Dunbar-Lowe and Haynes each charted 11 kills. ‘Runner setter Fabiana Andrade registered her fifth double-double of the year with 34 assists and 14 digs.
"We did not play our best today, especially in the first two sets, but we battled!" said CSUB director of volleyball Giovana Melo. "Our team fought hard."
The WAC Tournament begins next Thursday when NM State hosts the meet in the Pan American Center. The host Aggies (23-6, 13-1 WAC) are the No. 1 seed followed by UVU (15-13, 10-4 WAC). As the No. 3 seed, CSUB (13-14, 10-4 WAC) will play Seattle U (13-14, 6-8 WAC) at 5 p.m. (MT) on Thursday. UMKC (15-12, 8-6 WAC) earned the fourth seed and will play UTRGV (18-13, 7-7 WAC), the fifth seed Thursday night at 7:30 p.m. (MT).
Utah Valley will take on the winner of the CSUB-SU match on Friday at 5 p.m. (MT) while NM State faces the winner of the UMKC-UTRGV match next Friday at 7:30 p.m. The championship match will be held next Saturday at 7 p.m. (MT). All of the matches will be streamed on the WAC Digital Network.