Wolverines Advance to Saturday's GWC Championship with Sweep of NJIT

WOLVERINEGREENDOTCOM Jaicee Kuresa led UVU with 11 kills in the semifinal victory.
Jaicee Kuresa led UVU with 11 kills in the semifinal victory.

Nov. 18, 2011

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GRAND FORKS, N.D. - Utah Valley University seniors Jaicee Kuresa, Sarah Clement and Chelsey Heaps all topped double figures in kills and helped lead the Wolverines to a 3-0 sweep (25-23, 25-9, 25-20) over fourth-seeded NJIT in Friday's semifinal match of the Great West Conference Volleyball Tournament. The win punched UVU's ticket to Saturday's championship match and also set a new single-season school record for victories in a season for the Wolverines with 23 (23-8 overall record).

Kuresa finished with 11 kills and hit .375 for the match, while Heaps tallied another double-double with 10 kills, 10 digs and also hit a solid .400, and Clement added 10 kills and hit .217. UVU, who won the conference's regular season title and is the top seed in the tournament, will face the two-seed and host-North Dakota Fighting Sioux who defeated Houston Baptist 3-1 in the other semifinal.

"We really executed well and on offense each girl contributed and did some good things," UVU head coach Sam Atoa said. "We served and passed very well which helped contribute to the way that we were able to control the match."

In a tightly contested opening set that saw 15 ties, UVU went ahead 16-14 following a kill from Kuresa. The Highlanders then came right back and tied the score at 17-all after a Wolverine attack error. UVU then went back up by two at 21-19 after a Lindsay Barker kill. NJIT battled back to tie the score again at 21-apiece but the Wolverines answered with a pair of kills from 2011 GWC Player of the Year Sarah Clement and a set-closing kill from 2011 GWC Setter of the Year Brookelyn Campbell to take the initial set 25-23.



Momentum stayed on UVU's side in the second set as it jumped out to a quick 6-0 lead. The Wolverines then worked their advantage up to nine-points at 13-4 after a Heaps kill. UVU later broke the set open at 17-5 after back-to-back kills from Campbell, Heaps and Kuresa. Utah Valley cruised in the set from there as it won the second frame 25-9. Kuresa led the way in the set with five kills, while Barker and Heaps added four apiece.

The Highlanders answered back in the opening of the third set as they took an early 6-3 advantage. The Wolverines countered however by scoring six of the next seven points to take a 9-7 lead of their own. NJIT then quickly tied it at 10-all but UVU responded with another 6-0 run of its own to take a 16-10 advantage.

The Highlanders later pulled within two at 17-15 after a Janet Snell kill but Utah Valley answered again and scored five of the next seven points to take a late 22-17 lead. Heaps, Kuresa and Clement - all Wolverine seniors - helped UVU finish off the Highlanders with kills down the stretch as the Wolverines won the final set 25-20.

Campbell led both sides of the net with 38 assists and Katie Fritzler recorded five blocks (all assists) for the Wolverines. Freshman McKenna Tait - who was recently named to the GWC's All-Newcomer Team - added a match-high 18 digs and a service ace.

NJIT's Janet Snell, Julia Columbo, and Renata Pandolfo finished with nine kills apiece, while Audrey Snell led with 16 digs and Anna Mercado tallied 32 assists.

The 2011 Great West Conference Volleyball Tournament champion will be decided Saturday starting at 4 p.m. at the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center in Grand Forks, N.D. Live stats and live video can be found by visiting FightingSioux.com.

"We worked hard and did a lot of things that we felt like we needed to do to get back in the title match," Atoa added. "It's going to be a tough match regardless of who we end up playing but I feel that the girls are taking matters in their own hands and have done some very good things in these two matches that we've played. Saturday's match is going to be the most important one of the season for us."