Nov. 19, 2011
GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- The Utah Valley University women's volleyball team closed out the 2011 season with a 14-25, 22-25, 21-25 loss to North Dakota in the Great West Conference Championship game in the Betty Englestead Sioux Center Saturday.
The Wolverines, the GWC regular-season champions, entered the tournament as the No. 1 seed and earned a first-round bye. They beat NJIT, 3-0, Friday to earn their second berth into the title game in three seasons.
With the loss, the Wolverines end the season with a school-record 23 victories against nine losses. UVU, which beat the Fighting Sioux 3-1 in both meetings during the regular season, finished 9-1 in league play with its only loss coming at Houston Baptist.
In October, the Wolverines won a season-high five straight matches, and after the loss the HBU on Oct. 15, the Wolverines won eight of their next nine, including four straight, before dropping the title match to UND (26-5), which has now won three straight GWC volleyball crowns.
"Even with this disappointing loss, we had a great season and that's something we can be proud of, and I made sure the girls knew that," UVU volleyball coach Sam Atoa said. "We had our best season in many areas and they need to remember that."
For the match, the UND had 49 kills (.238 hitting percentage) to UVU's 29 (.084 hitting percentage), while posting more assists 48-27 and digs 64-38 as well.
Chelsey Heaps and Jaicee Kuresa, playing in their final matches for UVU, led the Wovlerines with 11 and seven kills, respectively, while Sarah Clement, the GWC Player of the Year, closed out her collegiate career with five kills and seven blocks assists.
Kuresa also had five block assists, while Brookelyn Campbell added 24 assists and Patti Flagg and McKenna Tait added nine digs each.
Annika Smed paced the Fighting Sioux with 14 kills and 11 digs.
"You have to hand it to UND. They made some adjustments and played very well," Atoa said. "There were times we responded and did some good things in the second set, but in the first set we couldn't get any going. UND played a lot better and deserved to win. They were the better team tonight."
The Fighting Sioux scored the first three points in the opening game and never looked back in the 25-14 victory. UND took the lead to 11-3 and the Wolverines were never able to get any closer than six in the remainder of the game.
In Game 2, the two teams were tied at 5-5 before the Fighting Sioux surged out to an 11-7 lead. Tait served the next eight points to give the Wolverines to a 15-11 lead.
After a kill by Clement, the Wolverines led 18-13 before the Fighting Sioux started their comeback.
The Fighting Sioux tied the match at 18-18 before UVU surged to a 21-18 lead. With the score tied at 22, UND scored the final three points to take a commanding 2-0 lead.
The Fighting Sioux never trailed in the third set.
UVU trailed 6-2 early and tied it at 6-6 and 7-7, but UND increased its lead to as high as six at 20-14. UVU battled back behind three UND attack errors, a service ace by Katie Fritzler and a kill by Clement to cut the lead to 21-20. UND scored four of the next five points to earn the title.
"We relied on our serving and passing throughout the year and some of it came through for us and some of it didn't," Atoa said. "UND controlled the net both offensively and defensively. We did some good things, but not good enough."