SALT LAKE CITY — For the third match in a row, Utah State volleyball had three players in double-digit kills, paving the way for a 3-2 (25-22, 17-25, 25-20, 22-25, 15-7) victory over Fairfield on Saturday evening in the Aggies' final match of the Utah Classic at Utah's Jon M. Huntsman Center.
Saturday evening's win came on the heels of a four-set win over Northern Iowa on Saturday morning, as the Aggies went 2-0 on the day to finish Classic action with a 2-1 record on the season.
"Two and one is a nice place to be at this stage of the season," USU head coach Grayson DuBose said. "We always say that our team is a family, and I thought we really showed that today. We made some substitutions and some were upgrades, and all the kids were helping each other out, directing each other and pulling for each other. That's kind of a nice sign of what is becoming a really good team."
The Aggies got significant playing time from freshman setter Erica Moscoso (Mission Viejo, Calif.) and freshman outside hitter Kaylie Kamalu (Kaysville, Utah), getting balance across the stats.
"We compete hard against each other every day in practice so we know what all of them can do, so that's a nice thing," DuBose said. "To be able to substitute someone in and not miss a beat is really a benefit and a complement to the talent and depth on our team."
USU hit .185 (60-29-168) for the match, highlighted by .333 in the third set. The Aggie defense limited Fairfield to a .164 attack percentage (59-30-177), and USU posted 10 total team blocks.
Junior outside hitter Rachel Orr (Thatcher, Ariz.) registered a .311 attack percentage (19-5-45) and logged a match-high 19 kills to go with 14 digs for her third-consecutive double-double.
Senior outside hitter Tumua Etimani (Richardson, Texas) notched a career high for the third time in as many matches with 15. Etimani entered this season with 17 total kills but more than doubed that total with 49 in the Aggies' three matches in progressive fashion with 11 on Friday night, 13 on Saturday morning and 15 on Saturday night. Etimani also posted 17 digs for her third double-double of the weekend and her career.
Sophomore opposite side hitter Elle Brainard (Saratoga Springs, Utah) recorded 12 kills to go with four blocks, matched by junior middle blocker Kaitlyn VanHoff (Draper, Utah), while adding eight kills. Senior middle blocker Alyssa Everett (Perry, Utah) posted six blocks (one solo, five assists) to spearhead the Aggies' blocking attack.
Moscoso dished out 31 assists while junior setter Paige Neves (Otto, Wyo.) distributed 20 helpers. Junior libero Ashlan Rogers-Court logged 19 digs.
VanHoff served up a career-high three service aces, while Orr and freshman defensive specialist Hannah Gleason (Las Flores, Calif.) also tallied career-best aces with two apiece.
Saturday's match featured 35 ties and 19 lead changes, with the teams trading set wins.
Fairfield also had three players in double-digit kills, paced by Caitlin Stapleton with 15 kills, followed by 13 from Marilyn Peizer and 11 by Hadley Orr. Rachel Romansky doled out 49 assists while Carsen Mata logged 25 digs and Hayley Moyer posted seven blocks.
USU jumped out of the gates with a 3-0 lead in the opening set with a kill by Everett, an ace from Neves and a Fairfield error. Fairfield countered and tied the score at 7-7, before the Aggies regained control with three unanswered points, getting a pair of kills by VanHoff before a Fairfield error for a 10-7 USU lead. The Stags staged a comeback and regained the lead at 21-19, but kills by VanHoff and Neves bookended a Fairfield error and the Aggies took a 22-21 advantage. A kill from Fairfield's Marilyn Peizer knotted it at 22-all, but an Orr kill and back-to-back Brainard kills captured the set at 25-22.
The second stanza was much like the first with teams taking turns holding the lead and deficit, before Fairfield pulled away. Trailing 20-13, the Aggies sliced the gap in half with an ace by VanHoff squeezed in between a pair of Orr kills to trail 20-16, forcing a Stags' timeout. Out of the break, Fairfield scored five of the final six points in the set to capture the frame, 25-20, and even the match at one set apiece.
Utah State pulled away from a 9-8 lead with an Orr kill preceding a block by Brainard and Everett for an 11-8 Aggie advantage, and the Stags called a timeout. Out of the break, Fairfield reeled off five unanswered for a 13-11 lead, and it was USU's turn to take a timeout. The see-saw set kept swaying as the Aggies went on a 5-0 streak to open a 16-13 lead, getting another Brainard-Everett tandem block, an Etimani kill and an Orr ace during the spurt. The Stags closed it to 19-18, but the Aggies reeled off six of the next eight points in the set to take the frame, 25-20, taking a 2-1 set advantage.
In the fourth frame, USU scored the first point before Fairfield fired off five unanswered. The Aggies bounced back to tie it at 5-5, but then the Stags went on a 5-0 streak before Etimani regained control for the navy and white with a kill. Utah State got within two at 11-9 after a VanHoff kill, and then she teamed up with Orr for a block. Trailing 16-14, a freshmen fueled rally put USU up 17-16, as Gleason served up an ace and then Moscoso teamed with VanHoff for a block. The Aggies took a 22-21 lead following a kill from Orr, but the Stags scored the next four points, including the last on a long back-and-forth rally, to win the set at 25-22 to force a fifth and final set.
Trailing 6-5 in the final frame, USU reeled off three points in a row on a kill by Orr, then an Etimani kill and an ace from Orr for an 8-6 Aggie advantage at the court change and the Stags took a timeout. Out of the brief stop in play, a Fairfield attack error preceded back-to-back Aggie blocks, the first by Brainard and Everett, then Everett and Etimani, followed by an Orr kill to give USU an 11-6 lead. An attack error by the Aggies made the scoreboard read 11-7, but Fairfield didn't get any closer with another miscue for a 12-7 USU lead. Etimani and Brainard smashed kills before VanHoff and Brainard teamed up for a block to clinch the set and the match in the Aggies' favor at 15-7.
Following this weekend's action, the Aggies play at the University of Portland Nike Invitational on Sept. 6-7, before playing at in-state foe Weber State on Sept. 10. USU then plays at the Duke University Tournament on Sept. 13-14.
The Aggies officially kick off their home schedule by hosting Boise State on Sept. 18 at 7 p.m. in USU's MW debut.
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.
Doug Hoffman is the assistant athletic director for Utah State University Athletic Media Relations.