The Weber State University Wildcats volleyball team returned home for the first time in a week and dominated in a three-set sweep over their in-state rival, the Southern Utah University Thunderbirds.

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Head coach Jeremiah Larsen, center, speaks to his players between sets. (Joshua Wineholt / The Signpost)

The ’Cats entered the match struggling this season, dropping three of their last three and starting off Big Sky conference play with an 0–2 record. The two losses were to Portland State and Sacramento State.

However, the Wildcats got off to a quick start in the first set, taking a 17–10 lead. The Thunderbirds fought back with a 9–2 run and tied up the set 19-19 apiece.

The ’Cats answered back, ending the first set on a kill from sophomore outside hitter Megan Gneiting, taking the first set by a final score of 25–22.

“We did not start the match the way we wanted,” head coach Jeremiah Larsen said. “We started out pretty slow and I thought our focus was weak, but I love how we responded.”

Weber State built on the momentum gained in the first set and jumped out to a 13–5 lead in the second set. WSU showed no signs of letting up and cruised to a 25–14 win.

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‘Cats scramble to block a spike. (Joshua Wineholt / The Signpost)

The Thunderbirds came out fighting in the third set, quickly taking a 6–4 lead before the ’Cats answered back with a 9–1 run.

Senior outside hitter Amanda Varley came up big with a match-winning kill, sending Southern Utah home early with a 25–14 third set, completing the three-set sweep.

“Aubrey Saunders was insane, she’s been playing well the past 3 weeks,” said Larsen. “And Amanda Varley was at times unstoppable on the offensive side.”

Varley led the Wildcats’ in kills and was the only player from either team with double digit kills at 11.

Saunders, the sophomore middle blocker, had another impressive outing with eight kills off of 12 attacks.

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Setter Ashlyn Power sets up a spike. (Joshua Wineholt / The Signpost)

“We played well today,” said Saunders. “That’s not as great as we can play, but we still came out and swept them so it gets us excited for the rest of conference.”

Saunders, and her follow sophomore middle blocker Hannah Hill-DeYoung, dominated defensively and recorded six blocks apiece.

Varley led WSU defensively with her fourth double-double of the season after recording 10 digs.

“We are going to compete with teams that people don’t expect us too,” Saunders said. “It gets me excited because I know from where we are at right now that we can go beat and compete with everyone in our conference.”

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Wildcats errupt into celebration after having won a set. (Joshua Wineholt / The Signpost)
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