Sept. 20, 2013
By Geoff Thurner
IRVINE, Calif. - The Fresno State volleyball team (5-5) stayed perfect in tournament openers this season with its 3-0 victory over Xavier (7-4) Friday afternoon at the UC Irvine Tournament.
The `Dogs also staked their third straight-set win of the season with their 25-22, 25-23, 25-13 decision over the Musketeers who came off three straight +20-win seasons and runner-up conference finishes.
In her 10th start of the year, sophomore outside hitter Zana Bowens posted her third double-digit kill effort of the season, and her tally (10) led the squad for the second time in 2013.
The Long Beach, Calif., native also topped .300 for the second time this year after (.333) she racked up five kills in the final set on six attempts with no errors.
Making her first start of the season and 76th career-wise, senior outside hitter Marissa Brand logged nine kills - one shy of her season high and her 29th career double-double after her season-high 11 digs.
The Cypress, Calif., native also logged a season high in hitting (.304) and attempts (23-tied).
Freshman libero Maggie Eppright connected on a team-high two aces - her third multi-ace effort the last four matches. The San Luis Obispo native also led the team in digs (14) for the third time this season and was one shy of her season high that came in a five-set win over Belmont (15).
Redshirt sophomore middle blocker Molly Pearson logged six kills - her second-highest tally on the season behind her seven in the five-setter vs. Belmont. With only one error on her seven attempts, she also enjoyed a new career best over her Belmont hitting mark (.700).
Other notable efforts were turned in by senior right side hitter Holly Franks (2 aces, 7 kills), junior middle blocker Maci Murdock (7 kills, .286) and junior setter Christina Lee (31 assists, 7 digs).
Team-wise, the `Dogs hit .481 in the final set - a team set high and third +.400 total of the year - to end at .300 overall and their second +.300 total of the season.
Match-wise, the Musketeers became the fourth team in '13 to be held below .200 with its .161 mark, and the Fresno State also held edges in kills (40-39), assists (37-35), aces (5-3) and digs (43-42), while Xavier owned a 5-3 advantage in blocks.
Musketeer category leaders included Alex Blair (11 kills, .444, 3 blocks), Makayla Agin (3 blocks), Abbey Bessler (2 aces) and Sarah Brown (14 digs).
In set 1, Xavier answered deficits at 7-4 and 10-8 with a pair of three-point runs to stay tight early, then used a 5-1 stretch to go up 19-18 and force a Bulldog timeout. Murdock responded with two kills to tie the match at 19 and 20, and Lee added an ace and let a Musketeer attack go wide for a 23-21 advantage. Fresno State's final points came on an Xavier service ace and Franks and Pearson block in the 25-22 win.
In set 2, Fresno State jumped ahead 4-2, and forced an Xavier timeout after a pair of kills by Franks and Musketeer attack errors. Fresno State soon owned three-point edges at 10-7 and 13-10, but Xavier reeled off a 4-1 run to tie it, 15-15. Another three-point `Dog run was capped by a Franks tip that pushed the lead to 19-16 and led to an Xavier timeout. FS ended the set on a dump by Lee to end the 25-23 set and also included kills by Murdock, Bowen and Brand and a Musketeer service error.
In set 3, Franks and Eppright served early four-point runs to put Fresno State up, 13-7, and force an Xavier timeout. After the Musketeers posted two kills, the `Dogs rattled off a 9-1 run that made it 22-20 after five Musketeer attack errors and kills by Pearson (2), Brand and Franks. After a 3-1 Xavier answer made it 23-13, a Bowens kill and Franks ace ended the set, 25-13 - Fresno State's largest winning margin of the year.
Earlier in the day, UC Irvine (8-3) came back from an 0-1 deficit to win 3-1 over previously undefeated American (10-1).
Starting its fourth week of play, Fresno State also won its recent first tournament openers vs. Rice (3-2, Fresno State Invitational Presented by Deli Delicious), Portland (3-0, Portland Nike Invitational) and Belmont (3-2, Fresno State Classic Presented by Deli Delicious).
Looking ahead, the `Dogs continue tourney action Friday evening vs. American at 5 p.m., and then face host UC Irvine Saturday at 2 p.m.
More tournament information is available at the www.ucirvinesports.com website.
Catch the Wave: The Bulldogs open MW conference play next weekend at home with 7 p.m. matches vs. Utah State (Thu., 9/26) and Boise State (Sat., 9/28).
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