Utah State volleyball will be making its first-ever trip to Manhattan, Kan., to play in two matches this weekend, taking on Saint Mary's on Friday, Sept. 7, at 4 p.m. (MT) before facing No. 22 Kansas State on Saturday, Sept. 8, at 5 p.m. (MT). Both matches will be played at KSU's Ahearn Field House.
The Aggies were supposed to be playing in a four-team tournament hosted by Kansas State, but the fourth team backed out, leaving the three teams to face each other, one each day, as KSU is playing Saint Mary's Thursday.
Utah State is 5-2 after going 2-1 at the San Diego State Aztec Challenge last weekend. USU opened weekend action with a five-set win over Montana Friday night, then topped Sacred Heart in four sets Saturday morning before falling to host SDSU in four on Saturday night.
USU improved to a .226 attack percentage, also upping its kills average to 11.93 kills per set. The Aggie defense also improved its numbers, improving to 3.09 blocks per set and 12.04 digs per set.
Sophomore outside hitter Rachel Orr (Thatcher, Ariz.) leads the team in kills, posting 77 total for a 2.75 kills per set average. Orr earned her first all-tournament team honor last weekend after averaging 3.2 kills per set in USU’s three matches. She hit .364 (41-9-88) in the three matches, logging a career-high 17 kills on a career-best .419 (17-4-31) attack percentage in USU’s win over Montana.
Redshirt-freshman middle blocker Elle Brainard (Saratoga Springs, Utah) joined Orr on the all-tournament team after tallying 19 total blocks in the three matches for a 6.3 blocks per set average for the weekend. Brainard shares the team lead and the Western Athletic Conference lead with teammate, sophomore middle blocker Kaitlyn VanHoff (Draper, Utha) for blocks with 1.43 bps. Brainard leads not only USU but also the WAC with a .440 attack percentage.
Sophomore setter Paige Neves (Otto, Wyo.) became the 12th Aggie volleyball player to reach the 1,000 career assists milestone, as her 133 assists over the weekend now gives her 1,102 for her career. Neves is fifth in the WAC in assists (9.12 per set). Neves needs only 37 assists for the No. 11 spot held by Heather Hillier (2005-08) and 178 assists to tie for the No. 10 spot held by Mindi Jackson (1995-96).
The weekend is Utah State’s first visit to Manhattan, Kan., as the other four times the Aggies have faced the Wildcats have been in tournaments on neutral courts. USU and KSU first met in 1995 in Long Beach, Calif. They met again in the Aggies’ season-opener in 2000 meeting in a Washington State tournament, in 2003 they met in the Montana State tournament before the latest meeting in 2005 at the Arkansas tournament.
The Gaels of Saint Mary's are 4-2 on the year after going 3-0 at the Sacramento State Invitational, sweeping all three of its matches, beating Morgan State on Aug. 31 and Boise State and Sacramento State on Sept. 1.
The Wildcats of Kansas State are ranked No. 22 in the America Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) Division I Coaches Top 25 Poll and have a 6-0 record after sweeping their way through the Bluejay Invitational at Creighton, beating Denver, Creighton and Syracuse.
USU's seven-match road swing continues next weekend when USU opens up its final season in the WAC with action in Texas against league newcomers UTSA on Sept. 13 and at Texas State on Sept. 15. The Aggies return home to the friendly confines of the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum to host Seattle on Sept. 20.
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.
Copyright 2016, Deseret News Publishing Company