Nov. 25, 2013
LOGAN, Utah - Utah State volleyball bounced back after dropping the first frame to ground Air Force, 3-1 (21-25, 25-20, 25-14, 25-14), Monday night at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum. Monday's match was the make-up match from Oct. 5 that was postponed due to the partial government shutdown.
The Aggies got back in the win column after dropping a pair of matches last weekend to avoid their first three-match losing skid of the season, improving to 19-11 overall and 12-7 in Mountain West Conference play. USU will be seeking a win in its season-finale Wednesday against Nevada at 7 p.m. (MT) at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum for its second 20-win season in a row and third in the last four years, all under head coach Grayson DuBose. Overall, the Aggies are going for their 12th 20-match win season in school history in the 38 seasons of Aggie volleyball.
Air Force, which has been on the road since last Wednesday, playing at New Mexico on Thursday and Nevada on Saturday, suffered its fifth loss in a row, falling to 6-24 overall and 3-15 in MW play.
Monday was just the second-ever meeting between the Aggies and Falcons, as USU won the inaugural meeting, 3-1, earlier this season on Nov. 7 in Colorado Springs, Colo. The Nov. 7 meeting was by the same score, 3-1, with the Air Force winning the first set before USU bounced back to win the next three and the match, just like they did Monday.
Utah State's defense bolstered the rebound, holding Air Force to -.081 (7-10-37) in the third set and -.133 (6-10-30) in the fourth frame, after the Falcons hit .341 (19-5-41) in the first and .238 (15-5-42) in the second set. The Aggie blocking attack had 16 total team blocks on the night, led by the middle blocker duo of senior Alyssa Everett (Perry, Utah) with six block assists, while junior Kaitlyn VanHoff had one solo and five block assists.
VanHoff moved up to No. 2 on USU's career total blocks list, now with 413, passing Ingrid Roth (2002-05) with 409 career blocks. Now with 391 career block assists, VanHoff is nine away from becoming just the second player in Aggie volleyball history with 400 career block assists.
"It felt really good. A win is a win, so that always feels nice. At the beginning it was a little slow, but we picked it up. We're working on our consistency of always being up. It's been a long weekend, but at the end of the day, we're volleyball players and we come out to win. I feel like our scouting report is always spot-on from our coaches about what to block and take on people, so that really helped," VanHoff said.
Junior outside hitter Rachel Orr (Thatcher, Ariz.) added five total blocks with three assists and tied a career-high with two solo blocks, while sophomore opposite side hitter Elle Brainard (Saratoga Springs, Utah) added five total blocks on four assists and one solo. Of USU's 16 total team blocks, eight came in the third set, and three more came in the fourth frame.
"We needed more energy and passion after that first set and we hit for better and better numbers and held those guys to not hitting for as good of numbers. We got kind of on a roll. Blocking is funny, because it comes in bunches sometimes. I think they got flustered trying to hit around our blocks, which makes it a challenge because we have a nice defense too," DuBose said. "Air Force has been on the road for seven-straight days, so I'm not feeling bad for us at all. We needed better energy and to come out and play harder to show those guys the respect they deserve and have earned. Everybody's traveling. It's the end of the year, everybody's tired and sick."
USU was without the services of senior outside hitter Tumua Etimani (Richardson, Texas) Monday night due to an illness, but freshman outside hitter Kaylie Kamalu (Kaysville, Utah) stepped in and made her first career start. Kamalu responded by posting career-highs of seven kills, 20 attacks, three blocks and one assist.
"Kaylie came off the bench when Tumua couldn't play. She's been practicing all year for this moment. She's ready and her teammates surrounded her. It was kind of cool," DuBose said.
Brainard led the USU offense with 16 kills, while VanHoff logged 10 kills on a .368 (10-3-19) attack percentage. Orr added kills, while Kamalu's seven were followed by six from Everett and junior setter Paige Neves (Otto, Wyo.) with four kills on a .667 (4-0-6) attack percentage.
Neves also dished out 43 assists to go with 10 digs, for her second-straight double-double and 10th of the season and 33rd of her career. Neves also served up five service aces, one shy of her career-high.
Fellow junior, Ashlan Rogers-Court (Draper, Utah) logged a match-high 19 digs, giving her 485 this season, leaving her 15 digs from becoming the fifth player in school history with 500 digs in a single-season. Orr added 14 digs, while freshman defensive specialist Hannah Gleason (Los Flores, Calif.) logged 11 digs.
Air Force was led by 14 kills by Akokwe Clement, while Maggie Sherrill posted 13 kills. Hillary Keltner dished out 35 assists, while Rebecca Bates posted 16 digs. Keltner and Ayesha Hein logged two block assists each, while Sherrill had one solo block and one block assist, as the Falcons had four total team blocks.
In the opening set, Air Force pulled away from a 7-all tie with five unanswered points, taking advantage of some USU errors along with a kill by Sherrill and Taylor Parker for a 12-7 lead and the Aggies took a timeout. The home team got within, 17-15 after an Everett kill, but couldn't get any closer, as the visiting Falcons later took a 20-16 lead after another Sherrill kill. A kill by Brainard and a block by VanHoff drew the Aggies within 20-18 and Air Force called timeout. Out of the break, USU couldn't cut the gap to under two and the Falcons took the set at 25-21 after a kill by Cami Richan.
USU rallied from down 11-10 with four-straight points for a 14-11 lead, and the Aggies didn't trail again in the set. The Falcons got within 21-18 after an Aggie error, but kills by a kill by Orr clinched the second set at 25-20 for Utah State.
Holding an 8-7 lead in the third stanza, USU pulled away with a 9-1 run to open a 17-8 advantage, after a pair of tandem blocks, first by VanHoff and Orr, then VanHoff and Neves. An ace by Neves gave the Aggies a palindromic, 21-12 lead, and Air Force took a timeout, but it did little to slow USU's momentum, as kills by Brainard and VanHoff preceded a block by Kamalu and VanHoff for a 25-14 set three win.
Similar to the third frame, USU quickly turned a 10-8 lead into a 16-10 gap after a kill by Orr. Also, just like the third set, USU took a palindromic, 21-12 lead, preceding a Falcons' timeout, and a Brainard kill clinched the set and match for the Aggies at 25-14.
The Aggies wrap up the season on Wednesday, Nov. 27, hosting Nevada at 7 p.m. Wednesday is USU's final match of the year and the Aggies will be honoring their two seniors, outside hitter Tumua Etimani (Richardson, Texas) and middle blocker Alyssa Everett (Perry, Utah).
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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