Nov. 14, 2013
By Geoff Thurner
BOISE, Idaho - The Fresno State volleyball team (17-10, 11-4) weathered another challenge from Boise State (11-15, 5-11) to pull out an emotional win Thursday night, 3-1, at Bronco Gym.
Avoiding an eighth straight five-setter in the series, the `Dogs converted a 7-1 finishing run in the 26-24 finale to move into sole position of second place in the MW.
After the Broncos took the first set, 25-23, the Bulldogs bounced back with 25-17 and 25-20 advantages in the second and third sets. BSU held court much of the fourth set and even held a 23-19 lead, but fell victim to seven Bulldogs points among the final eight plays, including four kills by senior outside hitter Marissa Brand in a five-point stretch.
"Boise State always plays us tough," head coach Lauren Netherby-Sewell said, "and can create match-up problems. They're a good serving team and with their fast offense they can score points in runs. When our serving tightened up we were able to take their middles out of it and focus our block on their outside hitters. We had great composure at critical times and really rallied together as a team."
The `Dog offense ended with a season-high .381 hitting mark by .005 points, and featured four hitters with +10 kills and +.300 marks for the second straight match (and overall this season).
Thanks to her nine kills in the final set, the former all-league hitter Brand ended with a match-high 18 kills and 21 points. The Cypress, Calif., native also logged her 11th +.300 total of the season (.314), and connected on a season-high and team-leading two aces.
"Once our setters got the middles in sync and it allowed us to really open up the offense," Brand said. "I just wanted to help the team win and wasn't nervous at the end. I got a lot of good sets and just tried to put them away. I knew we would win, whether it took four or five sets."
Junior middle blocker Maci Murdock added a season-high 14 kills, while her .571 hitting mark was the team's fifth-highest of the year and paced the squad for the 15th time this year.
The senior pair of outside hitter Korrin Wild and right side hitter Holly Franks added 15 and 14 kills and .344 and .370 hitting marks. Franks also posted two aces and eight digs, while Brand and Wild added seven and six digs, respectively.
Freshman libero Maggie Eppright's 19 digs just missed her fourth 20-dig total and topped the team for the 12th time in 2013.
Team-wise, Fresno State held advantages in hitting (.381-.254), kills (65-57), assists (61-52), digs (53-41) and fewest service errors (5-6); the two teams tied in blocks (9-9); and BSU held the edge in aces (7-5).
For Boise State, category leaders included Alyssa Gammel (16 kills, 17.5 points), Maddy O'Donnell (.400), Casey Rose (29 assists, 5 aces), Hannah Hubbard (16 digs) and Brittany Reardon (5 blocks).
In set 1, Franks landed the Bulldogs' first three kills of the match, but Fresno State trailed by 2-4 points until 16-13, when Fresno State went on a 4-0 run on kills by Wild and Albertson, a Lee ace and Bronco attack error. BSU answered with five straight points to retake a 20-17 lead, then used two Fresno State service errors and an attack error to hold on for a 25-23 win.
In set 2, the `Dogs jumped out to an 8-4 lead fueled by a 6-0 run that included a pair of Murdock kills and block. BSU narrowed the lead to two points twice at 12-10 and 16-14, but FS ended the set with a 9-3 spurt that included three of Wild's four kills in the set, along with a Franks/Pearson block and Franks ace in the 25-17 victory.
In set 3, the Bulldogs held court the whole way but by only a 1-3 point margin until a four-point Fresno State run pushed its lead to 21-17 on two Franks kills and a Brand ace. BSU drew within 21-19 on two straight points, but kills by Brand and Murdock ended the period, 25-20.
In set 4, Boise State tapped a 6-1 run to push out to a 12-8 lead and still sported a four-point advantage at 19-15. The teams traded points through 23-19 before Fresno State used three straight kills by Brand to tie it, 23-23. A Gammel kill gave the Broncos set point, 24-23, but three straight points via a Brand kill, Murdock block and Wild kill cinched the comeback.
In that final rally, three straight Fresno State points from 23-21 to 23-23 were even without a Bulldog setter on the court as Wild and Eppright logged two and one assists in the run to give the `Dogs another blocker up front.
"I had a lot of confidence (to pull the setter) to give us an extra blocker and try to get them a little off track," Netherby-Sewell said. "I'm normally a little conservative but Holly was serving tough, and the way we were playing out of system I was willing to go for it, and it paid off."
Thursday's decision gave sixth-year head coach Lauren Netherby-Sewell and the `Dogs their seventh win in the last eight matches in the series. Overall in the 12 meetings between the teams in her tenure, Friday was also only the second match to not go five sets (and the other from her first season in 2008 went four sets, too).
Looking ahead, the `Dogs next play at Utah State (17-9, 10-5) on Saturday at 6 p.m. Pacific Time. The Aggies swept San Jose State at home Thursday night and trail the `Dogs by one match in the fight for second place in the MW standings.
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