OREM — The Utah Valley University volleyball team dropped a five-set battle to Bakersfield in its home season finale on Saturday night (25-9, 23-25, 25-19, 20-25, 14-16.) With the loss, the Wolverines (18-13, 11-4 WAC) remain in second place in the WAC standings with just one match to play.
Besides being the home finale for UVU, the contest also marked Homecoming and Senior Night for the Wolverines as seniors Brookelyn Hall and Katie Fritzler were honored prior to the match. Hall dished out a team-high 44 assists in her final home contest as a Wolverine, while Fritzler posted nine kills and five blocks. Hall also added five blocks, five kills and seven digs.
Despite the defeat, junior McKenna Tait became UVU's all-time leader in career service aces early in the first set as she passed Kat Stevens' (2007-10) previous record of 136. With a match-high four aces in the contest, Tait now has 140 for her career. Junior Cassie Wahlin led UVU in kills on the night as she recorded a new career-high with 15 kills, while sophomore Lauren Stringham added 11 and junior Kalani Norris chipped in 10. Stringham also added her third double-double of the season with a match-high 10 blocks.
With the match tied at two sets apiece, the Roadrunners jumped out to a quick 4-1 advantage. After a series of kills from Stringham and Norris, the Wolverines took a 7-5 lead of their own. Bakersfield countered back by scoring the next four points to take a 9-7 advantage but back answered Utah Valley as it managed to tie the score at 11-all. Following a block and kill from Stringham, along with a kill from Willden, UVU then took a 14-12, match-point advantage. The Wolverines couldn't manage to put the match away, however, as CSUB battled back to score the final four points to take the contest.
With the loss, New Mexico State (19-10, 13-2 WAC), which UVU will face in Las Cruces in its season finale next Thursday, clinched the conference title. Despite remaining in second place in the WAC standings with the defeat, Utah Valley needs to win at NM State next Thursday to guarantee the two seed and a first round bye at the upcoming WAC Tournament.
"You’ve got to give Bakersfield credit. To come in here and get this win, they played really well," head coach Sam Atoa said. "Unfortunately we just didn’t take care of things here. We’re going to have to be a much better team against New Mexico State."
Leading just 6-5 early in the opening set, Utah Valley used an 18-3 run to take a commanding 24-8 set-point advantage. Following a late point by Bakersfield (18-11, 10-4 WAC), UVU put the set away on its very next try. Utah Valley controlled the first set as it outblocked the `Runners, 5-0, and outhit CSUB, .385 - .000.
In a much more competitive second frame, the Roadrunners took a late 21-18 lead following an ace from Mariah Alvidrez. UVU answered with back-to-back points to pull within one at 21-20. Following a kill from Nakisha Willden a couple of points later, the Wolverines took a 23-22 advantage. Bakersfield countered from there, however, by scoring the final three points to tie the match at 1-1.
UVU used a 5-1 run in the middle of the third set to take a 16-11 advantage. The `Runners pulled to within two a couple of times down the stretch, but Utah Valley held its lead as it managed to take the third set by six points. Stringham led the Wolverines in the frame with five block assists.
Bakersfield used an 8-1 run in the fourth set to take a 15-9 lead midway through the frame. The Wolverines cut it to three, at 18-15, following back-to-back kills from freshman Macky Treanor and Fritzler, but that's as close as UVU would get the rest of the way as CSUB took the frame by five points to force a decisive fifth set.
With the win, CSUB swept the season series over the Wolverines after it previously defeated UVU in three sets in Bakersfield.
Debora Araujo, who leads the WAC in kills, posted a match-high 16 for the `Runners. Fernanda Goncalves also had a big night for CSUB with 50 assists, 12 digs and four blocks.
After concluding its season at New Mexico State next Thursday, UVU will travel to Phoenix, Ariz., for the WAC Tournament that will take place Nov. 25-27, at Grand Canyon University.
James Warnick is an assistant sports information director at Utah Valley University. For more information about Wolverine athletics, visit www.WolverineGreen.com.