When you outhit and outblock a team, odds are usually in your favor.
Not so for the Aggie volleyball team Tuesday night at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum. Utah Valley University stole a five-set victory from Utah State by doing the little things right.
“It was just little stuff, little execution errors,” USU head coach Grayson DuBose said. “We miss a dig, have a bad pass, miss a blocking assignment, and that’s the difference all the sudden.”
The Wolverines rallied from a two-set deficit to win, 17-25, 19-25, 27-25, 26-24, 15-12 in front of 759 fans. It is the third straight win for UVU over USU, and the series between the two is now tied at 5-5.
“We had chances to win; we were up 2-0,” Aggie opposite side hitter Shay Sorensen said. “We just let them dictate play after that. It sucks because we wanted to get that one for sure.”
Sorensen tried to do her part, recording a career-high 22 kills in the match. She hit .472, had 10 digs and five block assists. However, the senior would trade it all for a W.
“I would rather have the win than all that,” Sorensen said. “... Now we just need to get back on track.”
USU (12-6) saw its four-match winning streak snapped Tuesday, despite hitting a season-high .375. The Aggies had 19 total team blocks, as Elle Brainard tied a career-high with nine blocks and shared match-high honors with teammate and fellow middle blocker Kaitlyn VanHoff with nine. VanHoff is the reigning Western Athletic Conference Player of the Week and has tallied a combined 26 blocks in her last three matches.
UVU (10-7) extended its winning streak to three. The Wolverines hit .273 for the match and had 10.5 total team blocks.
“You hit .375 and you think you should win,” DuBose said. “Under pressure, they were just better than us tonight. When we needed a play to happen, we didn’t execute.”
After owning the first two sets — the Aggies never trailed in the first and briefly did in the beginning of the second — the third was much closer. There were 17 ties and four lead changes.
Sorensen knotted up the match at 25-25 with a kill. It looked like USU was going to take the lead and be serving for the match when a line official called a UVU hit outside the antenna. The head official didn’t see it that way. After a brief discussion, the point was played over. The Wolverines finished off the set to avoid being swept.
“They (Wolverines) got on a nice roll after that,” DuBose said. “... We knew they were better than their record.”
The fourth set saw 11 ties and six lead changes. VanHoff gave the hosts a 24-22 lead with a winner, and USU served for the set and match.
But UVU was up to the challenge. The Wolverines scored four straight points to even the match.
In the fifth set, the Aggies jumped out to a 4-1 lead at the start as Sorensen broke her career mark in kills, and Rachel Orr had two of her 15 kills during that stretch. Then the visitors came to life with a 8-1 run for a 9-5 lead.
Back-to-back kills by Orr and Sorensen brought the Aggie faithful to their feet as the match was knotted at 12-12. The Wolverines then finished off the match with two kills and a hitting error by USU.
“They (Wolverines) got the momentum in the third and just kind of rolled with it after that,” Sorensen said. “We had chances where we came back a little, but then they would just take it. We just couldn’t capitalize and finish.”
The Aggies were without senior outside hitter Josselyn White Tuesday. She continues to deal with a health issue.
If there is a silver lining, the setback does not hurt the Aggies in league play. While the Wolverines will be joining the WAC next year as announced Tuesday morning, this was a non-conference meeting.
“Our overall goal is to win our conference, and they are not in our conference,” DuBose said. “Our focus is now on San Jose State on Saturday.”