The Weber State University volleyball team wrapped up the Wildcat Invitational 2-1 with wins over UNLV and Cal State University Northridge. WSU defeated the Rebels of UNLV three sets to one Friday and swept past the Matadors of CSUN Saturday afternoon.
Weber started Friday’s doubleheader strong, winning the first set over UNLV 25–22. Weber seemed the better-conditioned team as UNLV’s players started showing signs of fatigue early, giving away points due to simple errors.
UNLV bounced back in the second set, barely edging out the Wildcats 26–24.
Weber State Junior Kennedy Williams stole the show for WSU, finishing the match with a total of 14 kills, to go along with two aces and a block.
“During practice, we really work on just swinging high,” Williams said. “And seeing the block and keeping the ball in front of you.”
The ’Cats finished off the Rebels after a 25–17 set three win and a 25–23 set four win.
Weber State had a few hours to rest before playing the Portland Pilots in front of a large evening crowd. Portland had won their earlier game against CSUN, and both teams were looking to give the other their first loss.
The Wildcats came out clicking in the first set with a 25–17 set victory, but unfortunately they couldn’t channel that energy for the next three sets.
Portland jumped to a quick 6–1 lead to start the second set. The Wildcats were clearly not ready for the intensity that Portland had, and coach Jeremiah Larson called a timeout to regroup with his team.
Despite the timeout, Weber couldn’t dig themselves out of their early hole and dropped the first set 25–16. Portland played really efficient posting a .429 attack percentage compared to Webers .067.
The next two sets told a similar story as The ‘Cats lost both of the final sets 25–20, losing the match to Portland 3-1.
The Wildcats left day one of the invitational with a 1-1 record and entered the final day of the invitational in hopes that UNLV could best Portland in the earlier game Aug. 31, and the Wildcats could reign champions.
“I thought that we got better every game,” Larson said. “We started out really good, but had a rough second game, but we learned … and we really responded well.”
The afternoon of Aug. 31, the Rebels of UNLV did just that. After falling two sets to nothing to Portland, UNLV battled back winning the next three sets, shocking the Pilots and giving WSU a chance to win the invitational with a win over 0-2 CSUN.
Senior outside hitter Megan Gnieting got the scoring started in the first set after falling behind 1–0 and the Wildcats never looked back. WSU never fell behind as the ’Cats remained ahead and tied for each of the three sets over the Matadors for the remainder of the afternoon.
The first set was a tale of small runs as WSU grabbed what looked like momentum, but the Matadors would answer with a small run of their own, keeping it close. WSU ultimately ended the first set when Williams blocked the Matadors at the net and gave WSU a 25–21 first set win.
Williams continued her dominating play into the second set as WSU went on an early run and grabbed an early set lead.
Gneiting fueled the charge late in the second set, and after one set point, junior outside hitter Sam Schiess put the Matadors hopes of a comeback to an end with a block and a 2-0 set lead entering the break.
WSU came out the break firing and grabbed a 6–1 lead before CSUN could bring the set to within two.
Williams took control again and after a long rally she added another kill and gave the Wildcats a 22–17 lead.
Williams finished the afternoon with her 13 kill and a WSU set victory 25–18, crowning the Wildcats as champions of the Wildcat Invitational.
Williams finished the weekend with 35 kills over three matches.
“She had a really good tournament,” Larsen said. “Maybe a little coming out party for she’s a super physical volleyball player and can touch 10 feet and 3 inches and has a rocket for an arm.”
Gneiting finished the tournament with 30 kills, and senior middle blocker Hannah DeYoung finished the tournament with 12 blocks.
The Wildcats will travel to Provo to play in the BYU tournament this weekend. The ’Cats will take on Sam Houston State, LIU Brooklyn and the 13 ranked BYU Cougars.