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USU falls to in-state rival in volleyball

Published: Thursday, October 11, 2012

Updated: Thursday, October 11, 2012 14:10


THE AGGIE DEFENSE tries to block a UVU hit during the 3-2 loss in the Spectrum on Tuesday. CURTIS RIPPLINGER photo

sports senior writer

    Looking for its eighth win in nine games, the Utah State volleyball team saw its 4-game winning streak snapped by in-state foe Utah Valley on Tuesday at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum.

    “Under pressure, the Wolverines were better than us tonight,” USU head coach Grayson DuBose said. “When we needed a play to happen, we didn’t execute. That’s a little discouraging right now.”

    Taking a break from conference play to host the future-Western Athletic Conference member Wolverines, the Aggies jumped out to a two-set lead behind an offensive onslaught.

    Redshirt freshman middle blocker Elle Brainard recorded three kills in the first set, including a perfectly placed kill on the second touch of the sequence.  Senior outside hitter Shay Sorensen added four kills and the Aggies tallied four blocks in a 25-17 set win.

    The Aggies jumped out to a 5-2 lead in the second set with solid hitting and defense. USU recorded six blocks in the set, including three from sophomore Rachel Orr. The Thatcher, Ariz., native tallied four kills to lead Utah State to a 25-19 win and a two-set advantage.

    “We had chances, we were up 2-0,” Sorensen said. “We let them dictate play after that.”

    Sophomore Candace Richins had a strong third set for the Aggies with three kills and a block. Trailing 23-20, Richins came up with a big-time swing for a kill and followed it up with a block to cut the deficit to 23-22. An attack error knotted the set at 23 and the teams traded points to a 25-all score.

    On the ensuing play, a ball hit the out-of-bounds antenna, but officials declared a replay when they were unable to determine which player knocked the ball into the net. The Wolverines won the do-over on a kill by freshman outside hitter Bailey Farris to win 27-25.

    DuBose said Utah State stopped doing the little things at the end of the game.

    “With both teams hitting for high percentages, not much defense going on, it just comes down to little execution errors,” he said. “We miss a dig or have a bad pass, we miss a blocking assignment, that’s the difference all of the sudden.”

    The back-and-forth affair continued throughout the fourth set until the USU defense took over. A kill and a pair of blocks by senior Shay Sorensen gave the Aggies some breathing room at 21-17, but the Wolverines didn’t go away and a 4-1 run made it 22-21.

    DuBose took a timeout to talk it over, but the momentum was on UVU’s side and the Wolverines fought off two match points to force a decisive fifth set with a 26-24 win.

    Things unraveled quickly for the Aggies in the fifth.

    After jumping out to a 4-2 lead, the Wolverines used a 6-1 run to take a three-point lead. USU stormed back behind the strong defense to tie it at 12, but the Aggies weren’t able to get over the hump, falling 15-12 to drop the match.

    “The thing to keep in perspective is our overall goal is to win our conference,” DuBose said. “They’re not in our conference, which works out ok for us. Their record is not an indicator of who they are.”

    With eight assists in the first set, setter Paige Neves also moved into 9th place all-time in assists. The sophomore finished with 53 assists on the night.

    The Aggies finished with a season-high hitting percentage of .375 in the loss. Sorensen and Brainard each had career highs with 20 and nine kills respectively.

    “Honestly, I’d rather have the win,” Sorensen said.

    Utah State fell to 12-6 overall with the loss and 2-2 against in-state teams this season. Utah Valley improved to 10-7 overall.

    The Aggies resume conference play on Saturday when they host San Jose State at 7 p.m.

    Utah State 3, Denver 2

    The Aggies pulled off a dramatic come-from-behind win Saturday to top the Pioneers in Denver’s first season in the WAC. Orr had a team-high 15 kills, while Sorensen added 12.

    After winning the first set, the Aggies dropped two-straight to the Pioneers before Richins provided a spark off the bench to spur USU to a fourth set win.

    It was all Aggies in the fifth set as they raced to a 5-1 lead en route to a 15-7 fifth-set victory to complete the comeback.

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