Nov. 21, 2013
LAS VEGAS, Nev. - Despite 16 kills apiece from Elle Brainard and Rachel Orr combined with milestone-reaching nights by Kaitlyn VanHoff and Paige Neves, Utah State volleyball fell in a hard-fought five-set fight, 3-2 (16-25, 25-21, 25-18, 19-25, 10-15), Thursday night at UNLV's Cox Pavilion.
USU slides to 18-10 overall and 11-6 in Mountain West Conference action, falling into a four-way logjam for second-place in the MW standings, while UNLV improved to 11-6 to join that congestion at the second spot, improving to 16-11 overall. The Aggies and Rebels are also tied with Fresno State and New Mexico for second-place entering the home stretch of league play.
The Aggies posted a .167 (57-26-186) attack percentage for the match, including .368 (17-3-38) in set three, but couldn't put the Rebels away in the fourth to force a fifth and deciding set.
"It was a tough, hard-fought match and we just came up on the short end of it tonight," USU head coach Grayson DuBose said. "After game one, we felt like we needed to play with more passion and we did in sets two and three, and started off in set four, but then that kind of went away in a little bit and we've got to find a way to be more mature when it comes down to it in a tight match on the road."
Thursday was USU's second-to-last road match of the season, before closing with two home matches next week, as the Aggies play at San Diego State on Saturday, Nov. 23.
"It's San Diego State's Senior Night and they have a lot of talented seniors, so it's going to be another emotional night and an emotional match. We don't have a lot of time to feel sorry for ourselves, we just have to get after it."
Two bright spots from the loss were junior middle blocker Kaitlyn VanHoff (Draper, Utah) becoming the third player in USU volleyball history to reach 400 career total blocks, as she had six block assists Thursday, giving her 403 for her career. She now needs six more to catch Ingrid Roth (2002-05) for the No. 2 spot on USU's career total blocks list. VanHoff also has 382 career block assists, needing 18 more to become just the second player in Aggie history with 400 career block assists.
"That's great for Kaitlyn, she is a very good middle blocker and one of the better middle blockers in the conference. She's been in our program for three years and has continued to improve each season and gotten a lot of blocks. It's exciting, exciting for her that she's able to reach that milestone, exciting for our team and exciting for our program," DuBose said.
Junior setter Paige Neves (Otto, Wyo.) become the fourth Aggie volleyball player to distribute 3,000 career assists, as her 46 helpers Thursday gives her 3,015 for her career. It is also the second-straight season that Neves had topped the 1,000 assists mark for the year, now with 1,044.
"It's exciting for her to reach another milestone. I think's a tribute and reward for all of her hard work. It's also a tribute to the players around her as she's had some good teammates pass her the ball and she's been fortunate to have some real nice hitters around her and they complement each other so well that helps her reach those milestones," DuBose said.
Sophomore opposite side hitter Brainard (Saratoga Springs, Utah) and junior outside hitter Orr (Thatcher, Ariz.) posted 16 kills each while senior outside hitter Tumua Etimani (Richardson, Texas) added 12 kills and VanHoff added nine kills. Etimani notched 10 digs while Orr logged 12 digs for their 13th and 12th double-doubles, respectively, of their careers, which have all come this season.
Neves joined Etimani and Orr with double-doubles, with 46 assists and 15 digs, her ninth double-double of the season and 32nd of her career, as well as 14th match this season with 40 or more assists.
Etimani led USU with seven block assists, while VanHoff's six block assists were followed by four by senior middle blocker Alyssa Everett (Perry, Utah) and Neves, while Brainard added three as the Aggies had 14 total team blocks.
Junior libero Ashlan Rogers-Court (Highland, Utah) posted 28 digs, her seventh 20+ digs outing this season and 14th of her career. She now has 442 digs this season, moving up to No. 5 on USU's single-season digs list, passing Kelsi Peterson's 431 digs in 2004. Rogers-Court also served up three service aces, giving her nine aces in the last three matches. She now has 35 aces this season, needing three more to break into the USU single-season top 10 service aces list. Freshman defensive specialist Hannah Gleason (Las Flores, Calif.) added 11 digs.
UNLV, who hit .183 (64-29-191) for the match, was led by a double-21 double-double by Sekola Falemaka with 21 kills and 21 digs, while Madeline Westman posted a double-12 double-double with 12 kills and 12 blocks. Stephanie Thelen distributed 50 assists, while Allison Davis also recorded 21 digs.
The opening set was back-and-forth in the early on, before USU pulled away from a 6-6 tie with three unanswered with all three involving Etimani or VanHoff, with Etimani logging a kill, then VanHoff notched a kill and then the duo paired up for a block and a 9-6 USU lead. However, the Rebels charged back and took a 15-11 lead after an Aggie error, and UNLV pulled away for a 25-16 set one win.
In the second set, an Etimani kill gave USU a 4-1 edge early. UNLV countered and took an 11-9 lead, before the Aggies reeled off four-straight points for a 13-11 lead, taking advantage of UNLV errors. Later, the Rebels came back and took a 21-20 edge after a kill by Stephanie Thelen. However, that would be UNLV's final point of the set as Brainard had a pair of kills sandwiched around a block by Etimani and Everett, then Brainard teamed with Everett for another block before a UNLV error ended the set at 25-21 in the Aggies' favor to knot the match up at one set apiece heading to the intermission.
Out of the break, USU started the third set with a 3-0 lead, and the Aggies maintained the three-point advantage at 7-4 after a block by Etimani and VanHoff. Utah State later pulled away from a 12-9 edge to a 16-9 advantage with four unanswered points, with Brainard starting and ending the spurt with kills, and the Aggies kept the Rebels at bay for the set, and VanHoff sealed the set with a pair of kills for a 25-18 win.
In the fourth set, the Aggies jumped to an 8-1 advantage, but the lead quickly evaporated in the desert night, as UNLV came back to tied it at 10-all after a block by Westman. The lead changed hands back and forth, with the Aggies trying to pull away after getting an 18-15 lead after a kill by Neves, but couldn't put UNLV away as the Rebels went on a 10-1 streak to take the set, 25-19 and force a fifth and deciding set.
The Rebels kept their newly gained momentum in the fifth set, pulling away from a 4-3 lead with five-straight points for a 9-3 lead. Down 10-5, the Aggies scored three points in a row on a pair of Orr kills and a UNLV attack error and the Rebels took a timeout. The home team regrouped and came out of the break by scoring five of the next seven points to take the set at 15-10 and the match at three sets to two.
The Aggies play at San Diego State on Saturday, Nov. 23 at 2 p.m. (MT) in their final road match of the season. USU then returns home to host Air Force on Monday, Nov. 25 and Nevada on Wednesday, Nov. 27, both at 7 p.m. (MT) at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum. Wednesday is USU's final match of the year and the Aggies will be honoring their two seniors, Etimani and Everett.
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 matches 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.
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