Aggies Challenge `Dogs in MW Battle For Second Place
Nov. 16, 2013
LOGAN, Utah - The Fresno State volleyball team (17-11, 11-5) saw its single hold on second place in the MW turn into a tie Saturday night at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum.
With its 25-15, 25-18, 25-17 victory, Utah State (18-9, 11-5) handed the `Dogs only their second 3-0 loss of the MW slate with the other at unbeaten and No. 10 Colorado State.
Saturday's outcome also pushed the Aggies into a tie with the `Dogs in the conference standings with four matches to play.
"Utah State played well, but we did little to take them out of rhythm," head coach Lauren Netherby-Sewell said. "Unfortunately, we picked the wrong night to have some of our most reliable passers struggle, and our serving was also off. We didn't create much energy, and our poor play defensively gave a good team extra momentum early. We had some players sick with illness, but that's not an excuse because as a team we didn't show enough mental toughness."
The `Dogs entered the match leading the MW in aces, but were shut out in the category for the first time this season. In contrast, the third-ranked Aggies logged seven aces - the third-highest by a Fresno State opponent this year and tops for a non-five set-match.
Utah State also held Fresno State play to a season-low .080 hitting mark after it entered the weekend ranked second-best in conference play in hitting in 2013 with a .258 average.
Conversely, the Aggies posted a .232 hitting mark, and also held edges in kills (42-32), assists (42-32) and digs (54-45) and fewest service errors (1-2), while the `Dogs held a 6.0-5.0 edge in blocks.
The Fresno State offense ended with one player in double figures in kills and points - senior outside hitter Marissa Brand (13 / 14) - and she paced the team for the eighth and sixth times this year, respectively. The returning all-conference hitter also topped the squad in hitting (.278) for the fourth time in 2013.
On defense, redshirt sophomore Katie Pearson and Maci Murdock led in blocks (3) for the fourth and 14th times this year and second straight match, while freshman libero Maggie Eppright's 16 digs was her 13th match leader this season.
Utah State was led offensively by Rachel Orr (15 kills, .152), Kaitlyn VanHoff (9 kills, .818) and Elle Brainard (8 kills, .143).
Other Aggie stat leaders included Paige Neves (37 assists), Alyssa Everett (3 blocks) and Ashlan Rogers-Court (4 aces, 14 digs).
Saturday's match evened the season series between the two teams after Fresno State won their September meeting in Fresno, 3-1, and also ended the Bulldogs' three-match series win streak.
In the first set, the Aggies jumped out to a 7-0 lead thanks to six straight Bulldog attack errors to start the match. The `Dogs didn't give up and soon cut the lead four points on three occasions at 11-7, 12-8 and 14-10. However, the returning WAC Conference regular season champions ended the period on an 11-5 run that included five kills, an ace and block for the 25-15 victory.
In the second set, the Aggies jumped out to a 7-3 lead, but the `Dogs rallied with three- and four-point bursts to eventually draw even at 12-12 on a kill by Brand. Fresno State later trailed by only one point at 18-17 on an Orr attack error, but after an Aggie timeout, it closed the set with a 7-1 stretch en route to a 25-18 advantage.
After the intermission, Fresno State enjoyed its best start of the night and sported 9-4 and 11-6 leads early in the third set. However, after a Utah State timeout, the Aggies bounced back with a 10-2 stretch to go up, 17-13. After a series of sideouts, the Aggies still held a 20-16 edge, then ended the match with a 5-1 spurt for the 25-17 win.
Looking ahead, the `Dogs return home to host Wyoming (17-13, 7-9) on Thursday, November 21 at 7 p.m.
Next Saturday, November 23, Fresno State caps the home schedule with an 11 a.m. special Senior Day match vs. No. 10 Colorado State (25-0, 16-0) - two hours earlier than originally scheduled to help accommodate the 1 p.m. home football game vs. New Mexico.