Aggie Volleyball Fights Back For Four-Set Victory Over Air Force Thursday
Nov. 7, 2013
USAF ACADEMY, Colo. - Behind Tumua Etimani's fourth-straight double-double to lead three players in double-digit kills and Rachel Orr's career-high attack percentage, Utah State volleyball bounced back from dropping the first set with a 3-1 (22-25, 25-16, 25-18, 25-15) at Air Force Thursday night at USAFA's East Gym. Thursday was the first-ever meeting between Utah State and Air Force.
The win also got the Aggies back in the win column after a heartbreaking 3-2 loss to ninth-ranked Colorado State last Saturday night in which USU won the first two sets, snapping the Aggies' six-match win streak. Utah State has now won 11 of its last 15 matches in improving to 16-8 overall and 9-4 in Mountain West Conference action.
"This is a tough place to come play. Air Force is a very passionate team and they played with a lot of passion tonight and I very happy with how we were able to bounce back and match their passion after the first set," USU head coach Grayson DuBose said. "We were able to come back and play a lot better after that, we took care of ourselves and played our style of volleyball."
Air Force suffered its third loss in a row and eighth in last nine matches in falling to 5-19 overall and 2-10 in MW action. While USU has completed its two-match Mountain West season series with three teams, Thursday was the first meeting of the season with Air Force, as the Aggies-Falcons match scheduled for Oct. 5 in Logan was postponed due to the partial government shutdown. It is slated to be made up on Monday, Nov. 25.
USU was able to rally after dropping the first frame and improved to 7-3 in four-set matches.
"One of the things we talked about after the first set was how we had to play with more passion and not just think that teams are going to be afraid of us. We started playing with more passion, more fire and more moxie, from there on out," DuBose said.
Etimani (Richardson, Texas) recorded her team-leading 12th double-double and fourth in a row with game-highs of 15 kills and 13 digs, adding a match-high two service aces and two blocks. Junior middle blocker Kaitlyn VanHoff (Draper, Utah) and junior outside hitter Rachel Orr (Thatcher, Ariz.) tallied 11 kills apiece.
Junior setter Paige Neves (Otto, Wyo.) tied a career-high .833 (5-0-6) attack percentage), while Orr logged a career-high .667 (11-1-15) attack percentage. They were joined in the +500 attack percentage department by senior middle blocker Alyssa Everett (Perry, Utah) with .636 (8-1-11), while Etimani added a .406 (15-2-32) to pace Utah State to a .388 (61-14-121) attack percentage for the match.
"I thought Paige did a really nice job of distributing the ball in the offense, and getting into a nice rhythm early on in the match, and that's evident by our hitting percentages throughout the match. When I put in Erica Moscoso, we didn't miss a beat, and kept rolling. She did a great job. I was really pleased with our setting and our distribution, which is the focal point of us having a high hitting percentage," DuBose said.
Neves dished out a match-best 43 assists, while freshman Moscoso (Mission Viejo, Calif.) notched seven helpers. Junior libero Ashlan Rogers-Court (Highland, Utah) added 12 digs and Orr added eight.
VanHoff led a USU blocking effort that totalled 11 total team blocks, as the junior middle blocker logged a match-high seven block assists. Sophomore opposite side hitter Elle Brainard (Saratoga Springs, Utah) added five block assists to go with nine kills, while Neves added three.
Air Force was led by 14 kills apiece by Akokwe Clement and Maggie Sherrill, while Hillary Keltner tallied 42 assists, Rachel Bradley-Powers posted 11 digs and Ayehsa Hein and Sherrill logged one solo block each. The Aggie defense limited the Falcons to a .178 (52-28-135).
The Aggies and Falcons went back-and-forth in the first set. After a Brainard kill tied it at 13-all, the Falcons scored the next two points to take a 15-13 lead at the media timeout. The visitors chipped away at the deficit and Etimani completed the comeback with a kill to knot it at 18-18. However, the Aggies couldn't regain the lead and the Falcons flew to go up 24-19 and USU called timeout. Out of the break, Everett and Brainard posted back-to-back kills to pull the Aggies within 24-21, and USAFA took a timeout. Neves served up an ace to close USU to 24-22, but a Keltner kill collected the set for the Falcons at 25-22.
Utah State stormed out to a 9-3 lead after a block by VanHoff and Neves followed by an Air Force error. Later, Brainard recorded a kill for a 15-9 lead. Another Falcon error put the Aggies on top, 19-11. The home team took a timeout and later closed to 21-14, but the Aggies pulled away getting two kills by Etimani for their final two points of the set to take it at 25-16, sending the teams into intermission knotted at one-set apiece.
Just like in the second set, the Aggies jumped out to an early lead, opening up an 8-4 advantage after a Neves kill. Air Force got within one at 8-7 after a Sherrill kill. That would be the closest they would get, as the Aggies regained control and took a 19-14 lead following a Falcon error. Everett and Etimani later teamed up for a block to seal the set at 25-18 and give the Aggies a 2-1 lead in the sets count.
Set four was like the previous two sets with the visiting Aggies bolting to a big lead in the early going, this time at 8-1 after consecutive kills by VanHoff and Etimani. Later, an Orr kill gave USU a 15-6 gap, and the Aggies kept the Falcons at bay from there, as the match ended after an Etimani kill preceded a block by Brainard and VanHoff to seal the set at 25-15 and the match at 3-1.
Following Thursday's match, DuBose will lead his squad into his old stomping grounds at New Mexico on Saturday, Nov. 9 in a Noon (MT) first serve from UNM's Johnson Center (5,864). The Lobos improved to 19-5 overall and 9-4 in MW play with a 3-1 win over Boise State Thursday night.
DuBose was an assistant at New Mexico in 2001, after his two-year stint as an assistant at USU from 1999-2000, then departing for UNM with head coach Tom Peterson. While on the Lobos' bench in 2001, DuBose helped lead UNM to a 5-20 overall, 3-11 MW ledger, leaving Albuquerque after one season to go with Peterson to the BYU men's program.
After this road trip, the Aggies then return home to host San José State and Fresno State on Thursday, Nov. 14 and Saturday, Nov. 16, respectively, both in 7 p.m. start times.
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.
Fans who can't make the match can follow along with "Watch Live" and "GameTracker" links at www.UtahStateAggies.com.
Fans can also follow the Aggie volleyball program on twitter at twitter.com/USUVolleyball, on facebook at facebook.com/USUVolleyball, or on Instagram at instagram.com/USUVolleyball. Aggie fans can also follow the Utah State athletic program at twitter.com/USUAthletics, on facebook at facebook.com/USUAthletics, or on Instagram at instagram.com/USUAthletics.