Utah State opens league play undefeated with 3-1 win over Fresno State

LOGAN, Utah – Utah State volleyball started its conference slate with a perfect 2-0 record for the first time since 2013, with a 3-1 victory over Fresno State on Saturday afternoon, improving to 2-0 in the Mountain West and 10-4 overall on the year. The record is the best start for the Aggies since 2010, when the team opened the campaign 12-2 and later advanced to the NCAA Tournament.

The Aggies used a balanced attack during the match as senior outside Lauren Anderson led the way with 13 kills, followed by 11 kills by senior outside Rachel Gale-Hammond, nine from freshman middle Bailey Downing and senior opposite Kayla DeCoursey, and eight from junior middle Lauren O’Brien. Both middles hit over .300 as Utah State hit .188 (52-23-154) during the match.

Anderson coupled her kills with 11 digs, marking her team-leading seventh double-double of the year, as junior libero Tasia Taylor led all players on the back row with a match-high 21 digs, her sixth match with 20 or more digs this season. Other defensive highlights included a team-best six blocks from O’Brien and career highs from Downing with five blocks, Anderson with four blocks and a season-high two blocks by junior setter Kassidy Johnson.

“It’s nice to win. It’s always nice to defend your home court, and Fresno State’s a nice team,” head coach Grayson DuBose said after the match. “We served the ball really well, and they got in a lot of trouble. That allowed us to go be a little better defensively, as far as digging and returning balls in transition.”

Utah State opened the first set hitting .312 (14-4-32) and scored the first two points of the frame behind a kill by Anderson and a block by junior setter Kassidy Johnson and O’Brien. The Aggies never trailed in the set, but Fresno State came back late and tied the stanza at 20-20, prompting a USU timeout. Utah State closed out the set with a 5-1 run and scored each of the final four points behind kills by DeCoursey, an ace by Anderson and a kill by Gale-Hammond.

Fresno State fell into a blocking groove in the second set, totaling 10.0 of its total 15.0 during the match, and held Utah State to -.021 (10-11-47) en route to a 25-19 victory. The Aggies made a late push, fighting off five Bulldog set points before the eventual 25-19 final.

“I told them to stop hitting into the block,” DuBose said about the adjustments made after the set. “It’s not rocket science, this stuff, hit the ball through the block, around the block, chisel the block, but don’t hit into the heart of the block. That was all that we said, and they know better.”

Utah State used an 8-1 run in the middle of the third set to turn a one-point lead, 12-11, into an eight-point advantage, 20-12, capped by back-to-back service aces by Johnson, two of a career-high-tying three during the match. A kill by Downing, one of a career-high nine during the match, gave the Aggies set point, 24-18, and a block by Johnson and Downing on the next rally wrapped up the set for Utah State, 25-18.

USU opened the fourth set with a 5-1 run, punctuated by an ace by DeCoursey, and increased the margin to as much as 11, 23-12. A Johnson kill gave the Aggies their first set point, 24-15, but it wasn’t until a solo block by O’Brien two rallies later that gave Utah State the match, 25-16.

Fresno State finished the match hitting .132 (44-25-144) and was led by junior outside Taylor Slover with 10 kills. Senior libero Jacque Hutcheson led the back row with 17 digs and senior middle Lauren Torres led the FS block with six.

Utah State will now take its first conference road trip of the season next week, playing at UNLV on Thursday, Sept. 28, and at New Mexico on Saturday, Sept. 30.

Tickets for the season can be purchased online at utahstateaggies.com, at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum ticket office or by calling 1-888-USTATE-1 or (435) 797-0305.

Fans can 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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