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On a night when everything seemed to be going against the Weber State University volleyball team for the first two and a half sets, the Wildcats turned that misfortune into one of the greatest volleyball matches that has been played in the Big Sky Conference this year. They recovered from a two-set deficit to win the next three sets and beat Southern Utah University.
The five-set victory (16-25, 22-25, 30-28, 28-26, 19-17) ended the Wildcats’ seven-game losing streak, improving their record to 6-20, 2-10 in conference play.
“If you look at the stats from tonight, it was our defense,” said WSU head coach Tom Peterson. “You wouldn’t just say that your defense wins it, but it was a big factor tonight — that, and the errors that they (the Thunderbirds) made on serving.”
After losing the first two sets and falling behind 7-1, the Wildcats were in danger of losing control of the third set, but they decided to rally together. As they chipped away at the SUU lead, the Wildcats started to gain momentum.
Rebecca Fuchs, who had been held quiet for the first two sets, combined with Audrey Hunter to block the SUU attack, which was the start of a 6-0 run that tied the match at 17-17.
It was back and forth from there, as both teams had chances to win it. With SUU having match point at 28-27, Fuchs took a beautiful set from Whitney Hunt and hammered home a kill that split the defenders at the net. SUU then made two errors to give the Wildcats their first set and a glimpse of hope, but the drama wasn’t done there.
The Wildcats decided they were the ones who wanted to push the early pace and jumped out to an early 3-0 run, which SUU matched just a few minutes later. Once again, it was a Hunter and Fuchs block that started an 8-2 run, giving WSU the lead at 19-15. After having two chances at set point, SUU fought off the Wildcats to tie the score at 25-25 when the scoreboard went out. The match continued, but it added to the chaos of the final few points.
The Thunderbirds had another chance to end the match, but Audrey Biggs nicely denied their request with a kill and gave the Wildcats momentum. After an error, the combination of Fuchs and Hunter ended the set with another block, sending the match into a fifth set.
As fatigue and emotion started to take their toll, the Wildcats pushed through to tie the final set at 10-10 after being behind when the teams switched sides. After taking the lead at 14-11 and having three opportunities at match point, SUU showed guts of its own, tying the score at 14-14.
For the third-straight set, SUU had a match point, but was denied as Hunt set up Megan Bean for a perfect kill on the left side of the net. Bean hooked up with Katie Harvey to block the SUU attack and put the Wildcats one point away from the comeback. Harvey took those duties into her own hands and smashed the ball past the outlying hands of the defense.
Peterson had nothing but praise for his team, not only for the comeback win, but because he saw improvements, especially in that the 11 players combined for 59 digs.
“Our defense keep us in the match,” Peterson said. “We were able to dig the ball well. In the last set, they had three match points and our defense came through big for us — one of the times our defense helped us scramble.”
Biggs led the team in kills, contributing 17, while being a contributor on defense with 14 digs and four blocks. Harvey recorded 10 kills paired with six blocks, while Fuchs had nine kills, seven assists and seven digs. Hunt had an all-around impressive performance with five kills, 46 assists and eight digs.
After going almost a month in between wins, Biggs said she was happy the team was able to give the home crowd a win.
“I am so happy that we got a win; it has been a long time coming,” she said. “We have been working hard, and in the match it is never easy to go down two sets, but the coaches did a great job. They always encourage us to never give up. We have been down in matches before — maybe we like to give others a head start, but keep the mindset that we can come back and get back in the match.”
The Wildcats will wrap up their home stand Friday and Saturday night as they go to battle the University of Northern Colorado and the University of North Dakota. Both matches will start at 7 p.m. in the Swenson Gym.