FRESNO, Calif. – Despite a season-high 34 block assists, Utah State volleyball dropped its first Mountain West match in a tightly-contested battle with Fresno State, 3-1 (26-28, 25-19, 24-26, 24-26), at Save Mart Center in Fresno, Calif., Thursday night.
With the loss, Utah State falls to 8-5 overall and 2-1 in Mountain West action. The defeat also snapped a three-match winning streak for the Aggies. Fresno State improves to 7-6 overall and 1-0 in conference action.
Junior outside hitter Racher Orr (Thatcher, Ariz.) and senior outside hitter Tumua Etimani (Richardson, Texas) both recorded their sixth double-doubles of the season. Etimani had 14 kills and 14 digs, while Orr added a team-high 19 kills and 11 digs in the four-set match.
The Aggies posted a .119 (53-32-176) attack percentage, including hitting .163 (16-8-49) in the first set and .242 (12-4-33) in the second frame. Fresno State notched a .144 (62-36-181) attack percentage, in part behind USU’s season-high 18 total team blocks.
In set one, the Aggies came out strong, jumping out to a 7-4 lead after a Bulldog error. Fresno State slowly began chipping away at the USU lead, tying the score at 11-11. The Bulldogs took their first lead of the match 14-13 after an attack error by Orr. The Aggies jumped out to a 17-14 advantage leading Fresno State to call its second timeout. The Bulldogs responded well after the timeout, scoring five-straight points to re-take the lead 19-17, prompting an Aggie timeout. USU responded eventually tying the score at 24-24 after a kill by Etimani. The team’s traded leads until the Bulldogs were able to win two-straight points and capture set one, 28-26.
Fresno State continued its strong momentum into the early moments of set two, until the Aggies took their first lead of the set, 12-11, after another Etimani kill. Back-to-back block assists from junior middle blocker Kaitlyn VanHoff and junior setter Paige Neves helped push the USU lead to 16-12. The Aggies rattled off eight-straight points to take a commanding 21-12 advantage. The block party continued for Utah State on set point as block assists by senior middle blocks Alyssa Everett and sophomore opposite side hitter Elle Brainard sealed the set two win, 25-19.
In set three, Utah State jumped out a 13-9 lead before Fresno State fought back, scoring seven-straight points to take a 16-13 lead. The teams went back and forth trading points before the Bulldogs used a kill by Korrin Wild and block assists by Marissa Brand and Molly Pearson to take set three, 26-24.
USU recovered from a rough .025 set three hitting percentage in set four. Brainard was involved in four-straight points put USU back on top 20-18. The sophomore was involved in back to back blocks followed by two-straight kills to lead the Aggies. The Bulldogs buckled-down and closed out the match with four-straight points to win the match.
Neves led the Aggies with 46 assists and came one dig shy of a double-double with nine digs. Junior libero Ashlan Rogers-Court tied her season high with 23 digs, but Fresno State out-dug Utah State, 85-69.
The Aggies will remain in the Golden State to take on San Jose State on Saturday, Sept. 28 at the SJSU Events Center. First serve is set for 8 p.m. (MT).
Utah State volleyball tickets are available by contacting the USU Ticket Office at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum or by phone by calling 1-888-USTATE-1 or (435) 797-0305.
Fans can also follow the Aggie volleyball program at twitter.com/USUVolleyball, on facebook at facebook.com/USUVolleyball or on instagram at instagram.com/usuvolleyball. Aggie fans can also follow the Utah State athletic program at twitter.com/USUAthletics or on facebook at facebook.com/USUAthletics.