Utah State volleyball loses to Cal Poly in USU Invitational finale

LOGAN, Utah – Utah State volleyball showed improvement on the final day of the USU Invitational, but lost in three sets (19-25, 23-25, 21-25) to Cal Poly, who went on to capture the tournament title. 

Head coach Grayson DuBose wanted to see improvement with his team’s ability to kill the ball and the Aggies delivered with 43 to the Mustangs’ 41. USU had three hitters all above .350, including freshman middle Corinne Larsen (.467, 8-1-15), junior right side Izzie Hinton-Belnap (.455, 11-1-22) and senior middle Lauren O’Brien (.353, 8-2-17). Overall, Utah State hit .260 (43-16-104) during the match to Cal Poly’s .319 (41-12-91).

Hinton-Belnap led the Aggie attack with a team-best 11 kills, while senior libero Tasia Taylor and sophomore defensive specialist Madi Olson-Shepherd led the Utah State back row with eight digs apiece. Senior setter Kassidy Johnson recorded 34 of Utah State’s 39 total assists and was named to the all-tournament team at the end of the match.

The teams were tied 9-9 in the opening set when Cal Poly strung together three straight points to take a 12-9 lead and carried the momentum toward a 25-19 finish. Utah State trailed the Mustangs again late in the second set, 21-15, but fought back to tie the frame at 21-all, behind a block by O’Brien and sophomore outside Gabbi Shumway, back-to-back service aces by Taylor and three straight kills by Larsen, Hinton-Belnap and Shumway.

Cal Poly ended the USU run with a kill of its own, but it was answered by another Shumway kill to tie the set again at 22-22. The next rally ended before it even began because of a USU service error, but Larsen tied the set 23-23 on the next rally with another kill. Cal Poly closed the set with back-to-back kills to take it, 25-23, and with it a 2-0 lead into the third set.

The Mustangs opened the third set with five straight points, but the Aggies came back to tie the match at 10-10 following a five-point run of their own. The teams then played through five more deadlocks, including a 16-16 tie that was broken by a four-point Cal Poly run, giving the visitors the 20-16 lead. Utah State countered with back-to-back kills by O’Brien and Hinton-Belnap, but were only able to come to within two down the stretch, losing 25-21 in the end.

Cal Poly’s Torrey Van Winden led all attackers during the match with 18 kills, hitting .552 (18-2-29), while her sister Adlee Van Winden led both sides with a game-high 10 digs.

In the first match of the day, Loyola Marymount swept UTRGV in three sets (25-14, 28-26, 25-17) behind four hitters with double-digit kills, while hitting .375 (56-17-104) to the Vaqueros’ .157 (28-14-89). LMU was down 24-17 in the second set, but scored seven straight to tie the frame at 24-24, before eventually taking the set in extra points.

Utah State returns to action on Tuesday night, facing the first of two in-state opponents and traveling to Orem to play Utah Valley at 6 o’clock. Fans can find links for live stats and a free video stream online at www.utahstateaggies.com.

Follow the Aggie volleyball program on Twitter @USUVolleyball, on Facebook at USUVolleyball or on Instagram at @usuvolleyball. Aggie fans can also follow the Utah State athletic program at @USUAthletics, on Facebook at Utah State University Athletics or on Instagram at @USUAthletics.

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