USU volleyball: Top-seeded Aggies open WAC Tournament with four-set win
Senior outside hitter Josselyn White's double-double, including a career-high 25 digs, paced top-seeded Utah State volleyball to a 3-1 (24-26, 25-23, 25-19, 25-19) win over eighth-seeded UT Arlington on Monday night in the quarterfinals of the Western Athletic Conference Tournament.
USU improves to 21-8 overall and moves on to face fourth-seeded New Mexico State in Tuesday's semifinal. First-serve for the all-Aggie affair is slated for 5:30 p.m. (MT). The match will be streamed on the Internet and can also be followed with live stats by clicking on the "Tournament Central" link on the USU website..
White (Smithfield, Utah) bettered her previous career-high of 20 digs with a match-high 25 on Monday night and added 10 kills for her sixth double-double of the season. Sophomore outside hitter Rachel Orr (Thatcher, Ariz.) added 12 kills while adding a career-high tying six block assists. Senior opposite side hitter Shay Sorensen (North Ogden, Utah) posted nine kills and added 14 digs, one kill shy of her 12th double-double. White, Sorensen and Orr were all named first-team all-WAC players at Sunday night's awards banquet.
Sophomore middle blocker Kaitlyn VanHoff (Draper, Utah), a second-team all-WAC honoree, led USU's defense with eight total blocks on one solo and seven assists, while redshirt-freshman Elle Brainard (Saratoga Springs, Utah), the WAC Freshman of the Year and a second-team all-WAC selection, added five blocks on one solo and four assists. USU totalled 13 total team blocks for its 19th double-digit blocking outing of the season.
Both VanHoff and Brainard added seven kills apiece, as USU totalled 48 kills, hitting just .054 (48-39-166).
First-team all-WAC honoree, Aggie sophomore setter Paige Neves (Otto, Wyo.), posted her 11th double-double this season with 37 assists and 15 digs, while fellow sophomore Ashlan Rogers (Highland, Utah) added 20 digs.
UT Arlington hit an identical .053 (43-34-1717) and was led by Taylor Gross with 12 kills, while Stacey Koch added 10 kills. Amanda Welsh dished out 22 assists, while Shelby Dickson posted 17 digs. Amy Davault and Megan Casey chipped in with 16 digs each. Charmaine Whitmore recorded a match-high 13 total digs on two solo and 11 assists, while Koch posted seven blocks on one solo and six assists, as the Mavericks posted 17 total team blocks, the second-most by a USU opponent.
The first set was back-and-forth, before USU was able to get some separation, opening up an 18-15 lead after a block by White and VanHoff, forcing a UTA timeout. The Mavericks rallied and tied it up at 18-18 on a kill by Shelby Dickson, and UTA eventually took a 24-23 lead after a block. A Maverick error sent the set to bonus volleyball before a Maverick block was followed by a kill by Ashley Bennett for UTA's 26-24 set win. It was the first set that USU has dropped to UTA this season, sweeping both regular-season meetings in three sets.
In the second stanza, USU pulled away from an 8-all level score with three unanswered for an 11-8 lead. Brainard later pounded back-to-back thunderous kills for a 15-10 Aggie advantage. UTA then scored four unanswered of its own points to pull within one, 15-14, forcing a USU timeout. The Aggies opened up a 20-15 lead after back-to-back kills by Orr and VanHoff, and the Mavericks tried to slow down the Aggies' newly gained momentum with a timeout. Out of the break, UTA reeled off four unanswered points to pull within one, 20-19, and then it was USU's turn to slow the momentum with a time stoppage. A kill by White and one from Orr collected the set win for USU at 25-23.
Set three opened with a 5-1 USU lead after consecutive kills by Orr. After UTA pulled level at 7-up, USU pulled away for an 11-8 lead, forcing the Mavericks to take a timeout. The eighth-seed pulled to 13-12, but the top-seeded Aggies regained control and opened up a 20-14 lead after a kill by White. USU led 23-16 after an ace by senior setter Kassi Hargrove and had set point at 24-18 after a kill by Sorensen. But UTA scored the next point on an Aggie attack error, and USU took a timeout. Out of the break, a UTA service error ended the set in the Aggies' favor at 25-19.
The fourth frame was much like the first, with back-to-back scoring and neither team opening much of a lead. USU pulled away from a 14-14 tie with two points off a UTA error and an ace by Sorensen, for a 16-14 lead. The gap remained at two points at 21-19, but then the Aggies closed out the set and the match with four-straight points, starting with back-to-back Brainard kills, then a UTA error and Brainard capped it with a solo block.
Tuesday's other semifinal will feature second-seeded Idaho against third-seeded and host UTSA at 3 p.m. (MT). The WAC Championship match is slated for Wednesday, Nov. 21, at 3 p.m. (MT) and will be nationally televised on ESPNU.
Fans can stay up-to-date with WAC Tournament news and information by clicking on the "Tournament Central" link on the USU website. All the matches of the WAC Tournament will be streamed by clicking the "Watch Live" links and can also be followed with live stats through the "live stats" link.
Doug Hoffman is the assistant athletic director for Utah State University Athletic Media Relations.
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