Utah State volleyball entered Thursday's match with New Mexico State in second place in the Western Athletic Conference but emerged in first place after the match with a 3-0 (25-21, 27-25, 25-16) sweep Thursday night in a clash of the Aggies at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum. USU improves to 6-1 in WAC play and takes over the top perch of the conference standings from NMSU in dealing the visiting Aggies their first league loss, falling to 5-1. Both teams now have 11-5 overall records.
The navy Aggies beat their maroon counterparts for the fourth time in last five meetings, including winning the last two in a row to improve to 27-39 all-time against NMSU, including 12-17 at home. Thursday's sweep was USU's second three-set win over NMSU in the last five meetings, as the northern Aggies' previous two wins over the southern Aggies were in five-sets, including last year in Logan. The 66 total meetings is the most of any conference opponent and the second-most in school history behind the 67 match-ups with Utah.
Sophomore middle blocker Kaitlyn VanHoff (Draper, Utah) was one of three Aggies with a match-high eight kills, and she added a match-best seven blocks. USU totalled 12.0 blocks in the match, its 10th match this season with double-figure blocks.
VanHoff was joined in the eight-kills club by senior opposite side hitter Shay Sorensen (North Ogden, Utah) and sophomore outside hitter Rachel Orr (Thatcher, Ariz.). Senior outside hitter Josselyn White (Smithfield, Utah) added seven kills.
Orr led USU with a .375 (8-2-16) attack percentage, while VanHoff hit .333 (8-2-18) and Sorensen attacked at a .273 (8-2-22) clip, as the home Aggies hit .194 (35-15-103) for the match.
In addition to VanHoff's blocking, Sorensen posted five blocks and redshirt-freshman Elle Brainard (Saratoga Springs, Utah) added three. White also tallied three on one solo and two assists, as she moved past former teammate Chelsea Fowles (2007-10) for the No. 10 spot on USU's career block assists list, as White now has 259 block assists to surpass Fowles' 258.
Utah State started its "Dig for a Cure" campaign by totalling 47 digs for the second match in a row, as sophomore libero Ashlan Rogers (Highland, Utah) tied a match-high with 11 digs, while sophomore setter Paige Neves (Otto, Wyo.), added nine and freshman defensive specialist McKell Staheli (Pleasant Grove, Utah) added eight.
Neves dished out 24 assists, while Brainard tied her career-high with two helpers.
The USU defense limited NMSU to .035 attack percentage (31-27-115), well below its WAC-only match leading .253 coming into Thursday' match, including negative percentage in the second (-.025) and third (-.034) sets. Desiree Scott led the visiting Aggies with seven kills, while three other players posted five each. Bradley Nash posted three blocks, while Stephanie Ziegler shared match-high digs honors with 11 and Ciara Brown dished out 16 assists and Maggi Jo Keffury added seven. Meredith Hays entered the match second in the WAC in with 4.22 kills per set, but was held in check by the USU defense, finishing with just five kills on the night and a -.143 attack percentage (5-10-35).
In set one, NMSU jumped out to a 6-1 lead after a USU error, forcing a home team timeout. The northern Aggies climbed back and trailing 14-11, reeled off five unanswered points capped by an ace by White. NMSU took a 19-18 advantage after a block by Hays and Gwen Murphy. That would be the visitor's final lead of the set, as the home Aggies scored the next four points with VanHoff squeezing kills in between NMSU errors for a 22-19 advantage, and White later sealed the set victory with a solo block for USU's 25-21 frame one win.
Utah State again came from behind in the second set after New Mexico State took a 12-8 lead after a kill by Lauren Lorech, forcing a timeout by the home team. Out of the short break in play, NMSU had four errors, one off a tandem block by Sorensen and Brainard, to tie up the score at 12-all. Later VanHoff and Sorensen paired up for back-to-back blocks to put USU ahead, 22-21, and three points later with the score tied at 23, Hays had a service error to give USU set point at 24-23, but NMSU countered with a kill by Scott to send the set to bonus volleyball. Utah State had set point on two other plays and capitalized on the second after a White kill then a kill by Sorensen to seal the set at 27-25.
After the intermission, the home Aggies darted out to an 8-3 lead, as VanHoff pounded two kills during the spurt. NMSU pulled within 12-10 on kill by Preslie Alexander, but Orr regained control for USU with a kill to start a 7-1 streak by the home Aggies, and Orr helped cap the spurt as part of a trio block with VanHoff and Neves for a 19-11 Utah State lead. After NMSU narrowed the margin to 20-15 on a block by Lauren Loerch, USU scored five of the next six points, including three kills by White, a tandem block by Sorensen and Brainard and a visiting Aggie error to end the set and match for the home team's 25-16 victory.
USU's "Dig for a Cure" campaign is part of Breast Cancer Awareness Month and to help raise money for Logan Regional Hospital Foundations's Breast Cancer Services. Pledges are now being gathered for every dig the Aggies make during their seven home matches in October as part of USU's "Dig for a Cure" campaign. Pledges can be made in any amount and flat donations are also accepted and appreciated. Pledge and donation forms will be available at the matches at the marketing/promotions table on the west concourse of the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum. More information along with pledge/donation forms can be found here: http://bit.ly/RtaUKK.
Utah State's longest homestand since 2000, continues when the Aggies host WAC newcomer Denver on Saturday, Oct. 6 at 7 p.m. at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum.
The Aggies then take a break from conference play to host in-state foe Utah Valley on Tuesday, Oct. 9. Returning to WAC play, USU will host San Jose State on Saturday, Oct. 13 and UTSA on Monday, Oct. 15. After road matches at Idaho on Thursday, Oct. 18 and at Seattle on Saturday, Oct. 20, USU returns home to host UT Arlington on Thursday, Oct. 25 and Louisiana Tech on Saturday, Oct. 27. All Aggie home matches start at 7 p.m.
Utah State volleyball tickets are available by contacting the USU Ticket Office at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum or by calling 1-888-USTATE-1 or (435) 797-0305.
USU volleyball action can be followed live on the Internet with live stats available through the "Gametracker" link at www.UtahStateAggies.com. Aggie volleyball home matches are also streamed online by clicking on the "Watch Live" link at www.UtahStateAggies.com. There is a Utah State All-Access Monthly Subscription for $9.95 and a Utah State All-Access Yearly Subscription for $79.95.
Doug Hoffman is the assistant athletic director for Utah State University Athletic Media Relations.