Nov. 20, 2012
SAN ANTONIO, Texas - Top-seeded Utah State volleyball was eliminated from the Western Athletic Conference by fourth-seeded New Mexico State, 3-0 (21-25, 19-25, 16-25), Tuesday night in the semifinals of the tournament hosted by UTSA at the Convocation Center at San Antonio, Texas.
Regular-season WAC champion Utah State ends its milestone season with a 21-9 record. New Mexico State improves to 21-10 and advances to Wednesday's WAC Championship match against second-seed Idaho, who knocked off host and No. 3 seed UTSA in a five-set thriller in Tuesday's earlier semifinal. Either NMSU or UI will become just the fourth different team to win a WAC Tournament title as Hawai'i had won 10-straight tournament titles prior to USU winning it all in 2010, while BYU won the first two. Hawai'i won its 11th WAC Tournament crown last season before leaving the WAC for the Big West Conference.
Utah State won its first-ever regular-season WAC title to go with its 2010 WAC Tournament championship. The navy Aggies also won 20 matches for the 11th time in school history and second in the last three years, winning 24 matches in their 2010 WAC title season. USU, which was picked fourth in the preseason WAC poll, proved the prognosticators wrong in posting a 15-3 WAC record, setting a school-record for most conference wins, bettering the previous mark of 12 Big West Conference wins in 2001.
Senior opposite side hitter Shay Sorensen (North Ogden, Utah) led USU with seven kills Tuesday night, while redshirt-freshman middle blocker Elle Brainard (Saratoga Springs, Utah) added six kills on a team-leading .364 (6-2-11) attack percentage, while sophomore outside hitter Rachel Orr (Thatcher, Ariz.) posted five kills. Brainard and fellow middle blocker, sophomore Kaitlyn VanHoff (Draper, Utah) shared team-high honors with three block assists each.
NMSU was led by 17 kills from Meredith Hays, while Desiree Scott added 10 kills. Stephanie Ziegler posted 16 digs while Ciara Brown distributed 27 assists and Bradley Nash led NMSU with four blocks, one solo and three assists. The maroon Aggies served up nine aces, tying the most by a USU opponent this season, as Utah had nine service aces against USU in the second match of the season.
USU got out to an 8-4 lead in the opening set after a block by VanHoff and Orr, but NMSU rallied back and took a 15-14 lead at the media timeout after a kill by Hays. After the maroon Aggies opened an 18-15 lead, USU countered with a spurt of its own, pulling within 20-19 after a Sorensen kill and causing NMSU to take a timeout. That would be the closest Utah State would get, as NMSU scored five of the next six points and took the set at 25-21.
In the second set, NMSU bolted out to a 6-1 lead after a kill by Brown. USU pulled within 8-7 after a NMSU error, but the maroon Aggies opened up a 14-8 advantage. NMSU stretched its lead to 20-12 after a Hays kill, but then Utah State cut the margin to 20-16, getting kills by senior outside hitter Josselyn White (Smithfield, Utah) and Sorensen, mixed in with a block by Sorensen and Brainard along with an NMSU attack error, and NMSU called a timeout. USU pulled within 21-19 after a Brainard kill, but NMSU closed out the set with four-straight for a 25-19 win, sending the teams to the break with NMSU ahead, two sets to none.
The third frame started similar to the second with NMSU taking an early 7-2 lead after an ace by Ziegler, forcing USU to take a timeout. USU pulled within 12-7 after a Brainard kill but then NMSU reeled off the next seven points to open a 19-7 lead. Utah State fought back and closed to 23-16, taking advantage of some NMSU errors and adding a block by Neves and VanHoff along with a kill by Sorensen, but the navy Aggies couldn't get any closer, as NMSU scored the final two points to take the set at 25-16 and complete the sweep.
Tuesday was the final match as USU Aggies for three seniors, Sorensen, White and setter Kassi Hargrove. Sorensen and White leave their name in multiple places in the record book and the trio are the only senior class in school history with two WAC championships, winning the 2010 tournament title to go with this season's regular season crown.
White and Sorensen were also first-team all-WAC honorees, and were joined on the first-team list by Neves and Orr, while Brainard and VanHoff were on the second-team list. Brainard was also named the WAC Freshman of the Year and was also on the all-freshman team. USU head coach Grayson DuBose was named the WAC Coach of the Year, joining his 2007 honor and is the only conference coach of the year honoree in the program's history.
Sorensen ends her USU career with 888 total kills, moving up to No. 9 on the Aggies' career kills list. She also finishes at the No. 9 spot on the career block assists list with 280 while at No. 10 on the total blocks list with 291.
White moved up to No. 5 on the Aggies' career total attempts list with 3,030, as well as No. 8 on the career block assists list with 286 and tied for No. 6 on the career total blocks list with 319.
Neves moves up to No. 9 on the career assists list with 1,971, while finishing just shy of the single-season top 10 list as she dished out 1,097 helpers, while Chelsea Fowles holds the No. 10 post with 1,133 assists. Brainard moved up to No. 3 on the single-season block assists list with 150, as well as No. 3 on the total blocks list with 157. VanHoff climbed to No. 5 on the block assists list with 138 while climbing to tie for No. 5 on the total blocks list with 148. With 413 digs this season, Rogers ends at No. 6 on the single-season digs list.
Fans can also 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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