Nov. 3, 2011
OREM, Utah -- Behind Jaicee Kuresa's match-high 13 kills and Chelsey Heaps' team-leading 10th double-double of the year, Utah Valley battled through 25 ties and 12 lead changes over the course of the match to notch a 3-0, straight set victory over in-state rival Utah State (25-20, 25-21, 25-20). With the win, the Wolverines have broken the 20-win barrier for the third straight year.
"We went through some periods in the match where we went back and forth and traded errors [with Utah State], but I felt our girls controlled the match at the halfway point in each set," said UVU head volleyball coach Sam Atoa. "I'm very confident in the girls' abilities, and when they play like they can, we can be pretty good."
With the match deadlocked at 8-8 in the early going, UVU (20-8, 8-1 GWC) pieced together a 5-2 run to create some separation after back-to-back kills from Kuresa and Erica Nish made the score 13-10. But USU (11-14, 6-5 WAC) responded with an identical run to take a 15-14 advantage. The Wolverines and Aggies seesawed point-for-point from there, until another of Kuresa's set-high four kills put UVU ahead 22-20. From there, kills from Brookelyn Campbell, Kalani Norris, and a big block assist from Nish and Norris propelled UVU to a 25-20 first set win.
Despite the early setback, the Aggies looked determined at the start of the second frame, jumping out to a quick 7-3 lead. With momentum seemingly swinging toward the visitors, UVU clawed its way back to take a 15-14 lead after a Nish kill. UVU wouldn't surrender the lead from there, extending the advantage to as many as six before finally clinching the second set, 25-21. Heaps, Kuresa, Norris, and Nish each tallied kills in the deciding sequence with Nish and Kuresa also combining for a block assist.
Norris shined in the set, posting five kills on a .571 attack percentage, while Nish and Sarah Clement each added four. Campbell spread around 14 assists in a set that saw UVU hit a solid .308 as a team.
"Kalani [Norris] is making great strides," said Atoa of the freshman outside hitter. "She is developing into being able to play consistently at this level, and because of our team-wide contributions, that transition has been a little easier for her."
After grinding through nine ties and three lead changes to begin the third set, UVU grabbed a 17-14 lead when Kuresa drilled three of her seven kills in the set to power a 4-1 Wolverine run. A Nish kill pushed the margin to 20-15 and it seemed UVU was well on its way to its twentieth victory of the season, but Utah State mounted one last comeback effort, drawing to within three at 23-20, before a kill from Heaps and an ace from Campbell sealed the set, and the match, for UVU, 25-20.
Along with Kuresa's 13 kills, Heaps finished with 10 kills to go along with 17 digs. Norris and Nish each registered nine kills while Clement rounded out the offensive attack with seven. Campbell finished with 39 assists, a match-high, and seven digs.
Fox College Sports will rebroadcast the match twice nationally on Nov. 7 and Nov. 8. The first airing will be Monday at 2 p.m. on FCS Central and the second will come Tuesday at midnight on FCS Pacific.
The Wolverines return to action next Tuesday for a match against another in-state rival when Southern Utah visits the Activity Center. The game is set for a 7 p.m. start. The tilt against the Thunderbirds stands as a prelude to UVU's final match of the regular season, a Great West Conference title-deciding contest against North Dakota on Friday, Nov. 11.
"These last few matches at home, playing against Utah State and Southern Utah, are matches where we need to raise our level of play so that we can be prepared for our final conference match," said Atoa. "I'm excited about what we're doing right now."