Aggies down UNLV for fifth straight win
Published: Monday, October 28, 2013
Updated: Monday, October 28, 2013 22:10
A balanced attack and a career night from sophomore Elle Brainard led Utah State past visiting UNLV Saturday night for a 3-1 victory at home, extending the Aggies’ winning streak to five straight matches.
Brainard registered a career-high 21 kills to lead the Aggie offense, with juniors Rachel Orr and Kaitlyn VanHoff and senior Tumua Etimani each contributing double-digit kills in the hard-fought victory.
"I thought Elle did a great job with that matchup,” said USU head coach Grayson DuBose. “It was favorable for her and worked out well for her where she could go make nice, high attacks. Especially in the second and third games, I thought she did a really nice job.”
Brainard wasn’t the only Aggie to reach a new career mark; junior Ashlan Rogers-Court led the match with 23 digs, becoming the fifth USU player to total 1,000 career digs. Rogers-Court needs four more to be fourth all-time in the school’s history.
“She's a great kid. She's worked hard to make herself a better passer and a better leader,” DuBose said. “It's always come naturally for her, so it was only a matter of time. It's good to have her eclipse that mark. It's a testament to her work ethic and her teammates. They all have her back and it's fun to watch.”
A season-high 1,268 fans were treated to a thrilling opening set in the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum, which featured eight lead changes and 17 tie scores. Neither team was able to pull away from the other until UNLV pulled off three straight kills from three separate players to take the set 26-24.
The Aggies kicked off the second set with five straight points in a set that would prove to be entirely defined by extended scoring runs. USU led early by a score of 8-4 before the Rebels found a rhythm and took a 12-10 lead. UNLV extended the lead and looked to be on its way to winning a second straight set until the Aggies unloaded a 9-1 run to take the second set 25-22, tying the game at one set apiece.
USU squared off with UNLV in a tough third set, which saw the visitors in the driver’s seat early once again with a 13-9 lead. Orr then delivered two straight kills and the Aggies found momentum, igniting a 13-6 run and putting USU up by three late in the set.
After several tense volleys and two timeouts, VanHoff ended the set for USU with a definitive spike, and the home team never looked back.
The Aggies showed no signs of letting up, opening the fourth set in dominant fashion by building a 7-1 lead with strong offense and a pair of blocks. The Rebels looked flat-footed and unprepared for the Aggies’ re-energized offense, which seemed to spread throughout USU’s entire lineup; five different players recorded kills in the fourth set.
UNLV trailed 21-10 before making its final push to get back in this game, but it proved to be too little, too late. Orr drove home a game-winning kill to seal the victory and preserve the Aggies’ longest winning streak of the season.
The victory lifts USU into a four-way tie for second place in the Mountain West Conference after the Aggies also defeated San Diego State on Thursday in straight sets.
Utah State improved to 15-7 overall and 7-3 in conference play, with three of its past five wins coming via sweep.
USU’s homestand continues at 7 p.m. on Thursday against visiting Wyoming then finishes up at 7 p.m. Saturday at home against the MWC’s top team in Colorado State.