Sept. 14, 2012
SALT LAKE CITY - Coach Sam Atoa picked up his 300th career victory at Utah Valley University as the Wolverine volleyball team defeated Nevada Friday morning at the Utah Classic 3-1 (25-16, 26-28, 25-15, 25-23). The win was UVU's (5-4) third in a row and second straight over an opponent from the Mountain West Conference, as the Wolverines previously defeated Fresno State last Saturday.
"We had to work hard for this one but we did some really good things and I'm happy for our success," said Atoa. "Everybody contributed and made it happen. We still have a lot of work to do but we'll get there."
A couple block assists from the freshmen duo of Bailey Farris and Lauren Stringham and an ace from senior Erica Nish helped the Wolverines jump out to an early 9-3 lead in the opening set. Nevada (1-9) pulled to within four a couple of times but Utah Valley kept control of the set as it built its lead to as large as eight, at 19-11.
The Wolverines cruised to a 25-16 victory in the first set. Stringham and sophomore McKenna Tait led UVU with three kills apiece and the Wolverines held an 81 to 51 side-out percentage advantage.
In the second set the Wolf Pack jumped out to an early 8-5 lead but the Wolverines responded immediately by scoring the next four points to take their first lead of the set at 9-8. Stringham sparked the rally with an ace and a kill.
The second set stayed close from there until UVU managed to score four straight points to take a 22-19 advantage. A block assist from Tait and junior Katie Fritzler and an ace by junior Brookelyn Hall highlighted the Wolverine run. Nevada battled back however and tied the set at 23-all and forced the frame to extra points. After a battle that saw 14 ties and six lead changes, the Wolf Pack ended up evening the match at 1-1 as they took the second set 28-26. Tessa Lea'ea, who finished with a team-high 10 kills, led Nevada with six kills in the frame.
The Wolf Pack continued to play well in the early stages of the third set as they took a quick 5-2 lead but the Wolverines answered back by scoring six of the next seven points to take an 8-6 advantage of their own. Nish led the way during the run with two blocks and a kill.
A couple of kills from Hall and a solo block from sophomore Jaramey Barney helped UVU extend its lead to 16-10 midway through the set. The Wolverines ran away with the third set from there as they went on to take the set by 10 points and take a 2-1 lead in the match. Barney and Nish led the way as they each had a solo block and three block assists, while Farris recorded a set-high four kills as well.
The fourth set remained tight in the early stages but the Wolverines took a 12-11 lead after back-to-back block assists from Nish and Stringham. With the set tied at 15-15, consecutive block assists from Hall and Stringham and Hall and Fritzler gave the Wolverines a two-point lead.
Later in the fourth, UVU took a 23-20 lead after consecutive kills from sophomore Kalani Norris and Tait. Up 24-23, the Wolverines took the match on another kill from Tait.
Stringham led UVU with a season-high 11 kills, a .500 attack percentage and five block assists. Tait and Farris each tallied nine kills apiece, while Nish led the way at the net with five block assists and a solo block. Hall also played well for UVU as she recorded a match-high 45 assists and three service aces and junior Patti Hatch led the contest in digs with 16.
As a team, UVU outhit Nevada .218 to .069 and the Wolverines also had 12 team blocks compared to seven by the Wolf Pack.
Atoa, who is in his 14th season as Utah Valley's head coach, now holds a career win-loss record of 300-139.
"You never focus on that stuff (referring to his 300th victory), you focus on the kids and it's fun to be able to embrace what you put together," added Atoa. "Their success becomes your success as well. We've had a lot of great kids come through the program that have shared the same philosophy and foundation so the credit goes to them."
The Wolverines will conclude the Utah Classic by taking on Cal Poly tonight at 5 p.m. at Crimson Court.