LOGAN, Utah – A sell-out crowd of 1,400 broke in Utah State volleyball’s new Kirby Court at Wayne Estes Center in grand fashion with a come-from-behind 3-1 (20-25, 25-23, 30-28, 25-14) win over Idaho State Friday night to close the first day of play in the Utah State Invitational, sponsored by Gossner Foods.
“It’s just a great environment. It’s a perfect volleyball venue. It’s loud, our students are the best with the HURD getting their heckle on”, USU head coach Grayson DuBose said. “This was just a great win. Idaho State is a nice volleyball team; they’re picked to win their conference. We’re happy to come away with that.”
USU alumnus Melissa Schoepf McArthur started off the night’s festivities by serving up an ace in the honorary serve before the match, representing all Utah State volleyball players past and present. The Aggies got down early, but the raucous crowd boosted the rally as USU won its third-straight home-opener, with the Aggies improving to 7-2 under DuBose in their first match at home. With Friday’s win, USU is now 19-20 all-time in season-opening action, winning six of the last 10 years. Friday’s win was also the Aggies’ ninth win over the Bengals in the last 11 match-ups, while ISU still leads the all-time series, 28-23.
“We knew it was going to be kind of a dog fight. Once we kind of settled in, we got into a nice rotation, we were able to cruise and deal with the stress a little better. I was really pleased with how our girls and the crowd responded. It was loud and raucous, just like a volleyball game should be,” DuBose said.
USU ended the night with 52 kills with a .215 attack percentage (52-20-149), getting 19 kills from senior outside hitter Rachel Orr, while senior middle blocker Kaitlyn VanHoff added 10 kills and posted a team-high .304 attack percentage.
“It was seriously just amazing. It felt so good to finally play in the Wayne Estes Center with another team besides ourselves. It just felt really good,” VanHoff said.
VanHoff played a big role in the Aggies’ comeback, as she had four kills in each the second and third sets.
“It was just mental when we got down at the beginning. We knew we needed to fix our mental game and if we wanted to win, we needed to really want it. It was just little errors here and there. Once we got over that; it was good,” VanHoff said about the Aggies’ rally.
USU totalled 85 digs on the night, getting 26 from senior libero Ashlan Rogers-Court to lead four Aggies in double-digit digs, while Orr matched her jersey number with 17 digs. Senior setter Paige Neves added 15 digs, while sophomore defensive specialist Hannah Gleason notched 10. Junior opposite side hitter Elle Brainard recorded a match-high six blocks on two solo and four assists, while Orr logged four blocks with two solo and two assists, and VanHoff posted four blocks assists, as USU finished with 12.0 total team blocks.
Neves dished out a match-high 50 assists, as her and Orr logged their first double-doubles of the season. Neves now has 33 career double-doubles and Orr posted her 14th career match with double-digits in two categories.
“It feels great. It’s always good to win. It was a good team effort; we really ground it out and worked hard. The crowd was great. They make the game so much more fun and intense. It was a little nerve-wracking. You want to come out and win the very first game, but once we got settled and started playing, we did fine. It was so fun to see all the people that came and the support that we have,” Orr said.
Idaho State also had two players with double-digit kills, led by Tressa Lyman’s 18 kills, while Makenzie Filer posted 14 kills on a match-high .355 (14-3-31) attack percentage. Lyman also recorded a double-double with 15 digs, one behind team-leader Kylee Sessions with 16. Amy Sorensen and Alydia Fields-Grimm notched 11 digs apiece, and Hayley Farrer tallied 10. Filer posted four block assists, as the Bengals had 8.5 total team blocks.
Friday night was a match-up of a pair of head coaches who are both BYU graduates, as DuBose is a 1993 alum and Idaho State head coach Chad Teichert is a 1982 grad.
The visiting Bengals jumped out to an 8-1 lead in the opening set. USU closed to 13-10 after a solo block by Orr, forcing an ISU timeout. Idaho State pulled away and took a 21-14 lead after back-to-back Sorensen kills, taking the set at 25-20 after a kill by Whitney Harrington.
Just like the first frame, the second set opened with an Idaho State advantage, leading 7-3 after a USU error, prompting an Aggie timeout. Orr pulled the home team within 15-14, forcing the visitors to take a timeout. Out of the break, ISU opened up a 20-15 lead on Filer kill, but then USU went on a 6-1 streak, starting with a kill by senior outside hitter Jamaica Alisa and capped by a VanHoff kill to knot the score at 21-all. Two ISU points put the visitors up 23-21 before Orr smashed three kills in a row, including USU’s first lead of the night at 24-23 and her third kills sealed the set at 25-23 to send the teams to intermission tied at a set apiece.
In the third set, ISU again jumped out early, stretching a 5-1 lead into a 15-9 gap at the media timeout. The margin grew to 19-14 following a Filer kill and USU called a timeout, which sparked a rally with sophomore outside hitter Kaylie Kamalu smashed a kill to level the score at 21-21. It was a sea-saw back-and-forth battle, forcing bonus volleyball before VanHoff bashed a kill then teamed with Neves for a block and a 30-28 third set victory and sparking a massive roar from the crowd led by USU’s student section, the HURD.
The fourth frame was a different start than the previous three, as USU opened a 3-0 lead. The Aggie advantage grew to 18-12 following a pair of ISU errors, and the visitors called timeout. VanHoff later served up back-to-back aces, and two Orr kills sealed the set at 25-14 and captured the 3-1 win, setting of a wild victory celebration.
Utah State has a quick turnaround, returning to the court on Saturday at 10 a.m. to take on Oregon State, who opened tournament action by sweeping Saint Mary’s, 3-0, in Friday’s first match. Following the USU-OSU match, Idaho State and Saint Mary’s battle at Noon, then Idaho State takes on Oregon State at 4 p.m., before Utah State closes out action by taking on Saint Mary’s at 7 p.m.
Season tickets for the inaugural Utah State volleyball season at Kirby Court at Wayne Estes Center are now on sale. Fans can get reserved chairback season tickets for $50, while general admission season tickets are $40. Additionally, fans can purchase a Women’s Sports Pass for $75, which is good for general admission to all volleyball, women’s basketball and gymnastics home events. If fans purchase their volleyball season tickets by September 1, they can get a free Utah State volleyball seat cushion.
Utah State volleyball season and single-match tickets are available by contacting the USU Ticket Office at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum during its office hours 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., Monday – Friday or by phone by calling 1-888-USTATE-1 or (435) 797-0305. Season tickets can also be purchased online at www.UtahStateAggies.com, the official website of USU Athletics and clicking on the “Ticket Office” tab.
Fans who can’t make it in person can follow the action with “GameTracker” and “Watch Live” links on the Tournament Central Page: bit.ly/VB14USUInvite.
Fans can also 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.
Aggie fans can also still register for the Utah State University Athletics Hall of Fame Ceremony and Banquet on Friday, Sept. 6 at 6 p.m. at the Riverwoods Conference Center in Logan.
For more information or to register, go to www.utahstateaggies.com/HOF or contact Jimmy Moore, Assistant Athletic Director for Special Projects, at (435) 797-7101.