Weber State University’s volleyball team, with a record of 5–5, had a chance to pick up two wins against the University of Nebraska at Omaha and Kansas State University on Sept. 16-17 but lost both games 3–1, effectively setting them back to before the start of the 2021 Big Sky Conference.
“We wanted to regain a better effort physically and emotionally than from the Utah game,” WSU head coach Jeremiah Larsen said.
In the first game of the Omaha Challenge, WSU faced UNO, who had gone 3–7. The Mavericks started the game up 11–5 after going on an 8–2 scoring run thanks to three attack errors by WSU and two kills from hitter Sadie Limback.
Weber State responded by tying the game at 12 after a 7–1 run of their own as they forced UNO to commit four attack errors, three from outside hitter Marriah Buss.
UNO ran away with the set after a tie of 16–16 when they outscored WSU 9–2 to win the first set 25–18.
Limback, middle blocker Lakyn Graves and outside hitter Rachel Fairbanks stole the show for the Mavericks during the second set as they got 11 kills to win that set 25–17. The Wildcats’ outside hitters Dani Nay and Rylin Adams and middle blocker Emma Mangum combined for 12 out of the 17 points, all by kills.
“We didn’t really like what we were doing and couldn’t really impose our style of play. We needed to take care of business on our side of the net,” Larsen said about the first two sets against UNO.
WSU had only one opportunity to come back and close out the third set, and they took it. The third set had scoring spurts of 3 or 4 points for both sides, but the momentum bounced between teams.
“Volleyball is all about momentum. One team will score 3 points and the other will score 3 points, but the team who wins is the most consistent through the highs and lows,” freshman libero/outside hitter Makayla Sorensen said.
The third set was tied at five when Nay scored three kills and the Mavericks weren’t able to avoid two attack errors as Weber State put 5 points on the board to lead 10–5.
Shortly after, UNO turned the 5-point deficit into a 4-point lead as they strung together an 11–2 run with four kills by Limback.
After numerous kills from Nay, Adams and Mangum, and errors from UNO, the Wildcats powered forward to a 25–20 win and forced a fourth set.
The fourth set went back-and-fourth as each team traded points until two kills by Limback, one by Fairbanks and an ace by Shayla McCormick brought the Maverick’s lead to 23–18.
A couple of kills by Adams and an ace by Nay would help close the gap to 23–21, but a service error by Nay and a game-sealing kill from Fairbanks ended Weber State’s hope for a comeback as they lost 25–22.
“The teams that we have played so far this season have been really tough,” Nay said. “You have to earn your points. We didn’t play as crisp and didn’t do as well as we could have.”
On the second day of the tournament, the Wildcats played Kansas State, who had a 9–2 record.
One major change to the starting lineup was redshirt freshman setter Kate Standifird taking the place of Ashlyn Power for the game against K-State.
The first set of the game was the same as the Omaha game, both teams trading points between one another and finding it difficult to break through.
WSU gained a lead after Mangum kickstarted a 3-point run to make the score 23–20 and was closing in on winning the first set, but the game tied again after two attack errors by Rylin Adams and K-State’s outside hitter Aliyah Carter scored a kill.
Mangum registered another kill, and freshman middle blocker Baylee Bodily blocked an attempt by Kansas State’s outside hitter Haley Warner, causing Warner to receive an attack error to give WSU a 1–0 set lead.
From the second set forward, the next three sets were very similar with WSU on the losing end all three times. In the second set, KSU made up ground and won 25–23.
“We have to clean up a few things like being more disciplined, but when we continue to fight and play as a team, we can compete with anyone,” Nay said.
The team kept fighting until the end by squeezing in 3 points at the end of the third and fourth sets to close the lead of KSU’s to 24–23, but WSU couldn’t get the 2 points they needed.
Nay had 35 kills and 30 digs, and Adams would finish the two-game series with 30 kills and 21 digs to cap off the Omaha Challenge.
Standifird had a day to remember against K-State as she led the team in assists with 41, took third in digs with 14 and earned three aces in her first start of the season. Sorensen led in digs throughout both games with 41.
Weber State begins their Big Sky Conference title defense as the 2021 fall season opens up against Portland State.