Oct. 6, 2012
LOGAN, Utah - Freshman Candace Richins came off the bench to fuel a frenzied Utah State volleyball rally as the Aggies bounced back from down two sets to one to defeat conference newcomer Denver in five sets, 3-2 (25-23, 21-25, 24-26, 25-21, 15-7) in Western Athletic Conference action Saturday night at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum. Saturday was USU's "Think Pink" night as part of its "Dig For A Cure" campaign, with all fans encouraged to wear pink and T-shirts were given away.
Richins, an outside hitter (Kaysville, Utah), come on at the start of the fourth set in place of senior outside hitter Josselyn White (Smithfield, Utah), who had an illness during the match. The freshman finished with seven kills, while hitting .417 (7-2-12) to lead USU to its fourth-straight victory, winning seven of its last eight matches in improving to 12-5 overall and 7-1 in WAC action, remaining atop the conference standings.
Denver has lost its last three WAC matches and its last four in a row overall, falling to 8-9 overall and 2-4 in conference action. Saturday was just the second all-time meeting between the Aggies and Pioneers, and the two teams haven't faced each other since before any of the players on either teams' rosters were born, in 1983, meeting in the Northern Colorado Invitational. "Back then" the matches were played to 15 with side out, and due to tournament rules where the best of three sets with the Aggies winning, 2-0 (15-1, 15-1).
With Saturday's win over league newcomer Denver, the Aggies swept through the five new teams with an unblemished 5-0 mark against them. USU beat UTSA (3-1) and Texas State (3-0) on Sept. 13 and 15, respectively, as well as Seattle (3-0) on Sept. 20 and UT Arlington (3-0) on Sept. 29, before Saturday's win over Denver.
Sophomore outside hitter Rachel Orr (Thatcher, Ariz.) led USU with 15 kills, while senior opposite side hitter Shay Sorensen (North Ogden, Utah) tallied 12 kills. Redshirt-freshman middle blocker Elle Brainard (Saratoga Springs, Utah) added nine kills, while hitting at a .375 clip (9-3-16). Sophomore middle blocker Kaitlyn VanHoff (Draper, Utah) and White notched eight kills apiece.
Saturday's match featured the top two teams in the WAC statistics for blocking in USU and DU, respectively and they lived up to the billing as the Aggies finished with 14 total team blocks and the Pioneers tallied 14.5 total team blocks.
VanHoff led USU by registering a match-high 10 blocks, while Orr added six and Brainard notched four. Denver was led by nine blocks (one solo, eight assists) by Faimie Kingsley, who entered the match leading the league in blocks. Alex Turgeon added six for the Pioneers.
Aggie sophomore setter Paige Neves (Otto, Wyo.) dished out a match-best 53 assists, which was her third match this season with 50 or more helpers. Neves now has 1,488 career assists, needing seven more for the No. 9 spot on USU's career assists list, currently held by Kalei Arnold (1992-95) with 1,495 helpers.
Five USU players posted double-digit digs, including Sorensen and Neves both notching double-doubles. Sorensen tallied 15 digs for her seventh double-double of the season and Neves notched 11 digs for her sixth match with two double-figure totals. Freshman defensive specialist McKell Staheli (Pleasant Grove, Utah) posted a match and season-high 18 digs while, sophomore libero Ashlan Rogers (Highland, Utah) added 16 digs and White tallied 10.
Senior setter Kassi Hargrove (Reno, Nev.) served up a career-high three aces, while Sorensen matched her career-best with two aces and Rogers added two as the Aggies tallied a season-high nine aces Saturday. That total topped their previous season-best of seven that they had done three times.
Denver was led by Colleeen King with 22 kills while Turgeon tallied 11. Bailey Karst dished out 47 assists and Kate Acker posted a team-high 17 digs.
The Pioneers pounced on the lead early in the match, opening a 17-14 advantage in set one, before USU bounced back to tie it at 20-20 after a Brainard kill. Six points later it was tied again at 23-all, but two DU attack errors ended the set in USU's favor at 25-23.
In the second stanza, DU opened a 10-6 lead after a block by Kingsley and Karst, but USU rallied to take a 20-19 advantage after a tandem block of their own by VanHoff and White. However, the Pioneers scored six of the next seven points to take the set, 25-21, with King pounding a kill to seal the set.
The third set saw Utah State lead by a 9-4 score after back-to-back kills by White, but Denver charged back and later took a 20-19 lead after a Karst kill. Brainard and Neves later teamed up for a block to give the Aggies set point at 24-23. However, the Pioneers fought it off, getting a side out with a kill by Kingsley, who then was part of two tandem blocks to win the set at 26-24, first with Turgeon and next with King.
In the fourth frame, DU took a 7-4 advantage after a Karst kill, but USU countered with a spurt to take a 12-10 advantage after an ace by Rogers. The Aggies pulled away from a 16-15 lead and again had set point, at 24-20 after a Sorensen kill. A kill by Kingsley pulled DU within three, but a service error by the Pioneers sealed the set at 25-21 and send the match to a fifth and deciding set.
After a Richins kill, Hargrove served up an ace and the Aggies were off and running in the fifth set, opening a 5-1 lead after Brainard pounded a kill. A DU timeout did little to slow USU down, as they stretched their lead to 9-2 behind the serving of Richins, who later notched two kills within three scoring plays to capture the set and match victory for the Aggies at 15-7.
Utah State will be continuing its "Dig for a Cure" campaign as part of Breast Cancer Awareness Month and to help raise money for Logan Regional Hospital Foundations's Breast Cancer Services. Pledges are now being gathered for every dig the Aggies make during their seven home matches in October as part of USU's "Dig for a Cure" campaign. Pledges can be made in any amount and flat donations are also accepted and appreciated. Pledge and donation forms will be available at the matches at the marketing/promotions table on the west concourse of the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum. More information along with pledge/donation forms can be found here: http://bit.ly/RtaUKK.
The Utah State Campus Store is donating 20 percent of all pink merchandise sales during the month of October to Aggie volleyball's "Dig for a Cure" campaign and their selection can be found online here: http://campusstore.usu.edu/c-225-dig-for-the-cure.aspx.
Utah State's longest homestand since 2000, continues when the Aggies take a break from conference play to host in-state foe Utah Valley on Tuesday, Oct. 9. Returning to WAC play, USU will host San Jose State on Saturday, Oct. 13 and UTSA on Monday, Oct. 15. After road matches at Idaho on Thursday, Oct. 18 and at Seattle on Saturday, Oct. 20, USU returns home to host UT Arlington on Thursday, Oct. 25 and Louisiana Tech on Saturday, Oct. 27. All Aggie home matches start at 7 p.m.
Utah State volleyball tickets are available by contacting the USU Ticket Office at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum or by phone by calling 1-888-USTATE-1 or (435) 797-0305.
USU volleyball action can be followed live on the Internet with live stats available through the "Gametracker" link at www.UtahStateAggies.com. Aggie volleyball home matches are also streamed online by clicking on the "Watch Live" link at www.UtahStateAggies.com. There is a Utah State All-Access Monthly Subscription for $9.95 and a Utah State All-Access Yearly Subscription for $79.95.
Fans can follow the Aggie volleyball program at twitter.com/USUVolleyball or on facebook at facebook.com/USUVolleyball. Aggie fans can also follow the Utah State athletic program at twitter.com/USUAthletics or on facebook at facebook.com/USUAthletics.
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