Utah State volleyball had three players register double-digit kills, led by sophomore outside hitter Rachel Orr's career-high 18, to pace the Aggies to a 3-1 (25-22, 25-22, 23-25, 25-20) win over UTSA in both teams' Western Athletic Conference opener, as well as UTSA's inaugural WAC match, Thursday night at UTSA's Convocation Center in San Antonio, Texas.
USU snapped a three-match losing skein to improve to 6-4 overall. UTSA dropped its second in a row after a four-match win streak, sliding to 6-4 overall. Thursday was the Aggies' first-ever visit to UTSA, and USU now holds a 3-0 all-time series record.
Orr (Thatcher, Ariz.) posted her sixth double-digit kills outing of the season on a .205 attack percentage (18-9-44) in the match. The 18 kills is not only a career-best for Orr, but it is the most for a USU player this season.
Senior opposite side hitter Shay Sorensen (North Ogden, Utah) added 15 kills, hitting .243 (15-6-37) for the match. Senior outside hitter Josselyn White (Smithfield, Utah) returned to action after missing the previous four-and-a-half matches with illness and logged 10 kills. Sorensen and White notched 11 digs apiece, as Sorensen posted her third double-double of the season while White recorded her second.
The Aggies hit .177 (53-25-158) on the night, logging a .341 (16-2-41) attack percentage in the clinching fourth set. UTSA posted a .108 (47-29-166) attack percentage, led by McKenzie Adams with 17 kills, but she was the only Roadrunners' player with double-figures in the kills category.
USU sophomore libero Ashlan Rogers (Highland, Utah) tied a career-high with a match-best 27 digs, while sophomore setter Paige Neves (Otto, Wyo.) logged 18 digs to go with dishing out a match-high 41 assists. It was Neves' third match this season with 40 or more assists and ninth of her career.
Redshirt-freshman Elle Brainard (Saratoga Springs, Utah) shared match-high honors with seven total blocks, including a career-high two block solos, while Orr and sophomore middle blocker Kaitlyn VanHoff (Draper, Utah) notched three block assists each. Utah State registered 10 total team blocks, its six double-digit blocking outing of the year and first in the last four matches after a season-high 20.5 on Sept. 1. The Aggies entered Thursday's match leading the WAC and ranking ninth in the NCAA in blocking at 3.04 blocks per set.
Set one saw score ties and five lead changes, the last when USU took a 13-12 lead after a Brainard solo block. The Aggie block combo of Sorensen and VanHoff created a point for the visitors at 18-15. The Roadrunners closed to 23-22, but a kill by Orr and a UTSA error ended the opening set in USU's favor, 25-22.
The Roadrunners took a 10-8 lead in the second set after an attack error, but the Aggies charged back with a 7-2 spurt, capped by a Sorensen kill for a 15-12 lead that forced a timeout. A kill by Neves gave USU a 19-15 lead, but UTSA knotted up the score at 21-all on back-to-back blocks for the set's seventh and final tie. The Aggies joined the block party with Orr and VanHoff teaming up for a 22-21 lead and later Brainard and Neves paired up for a block to seal the set at 25-22.
After USU took a 15-9 lead in the third frame after kills by Sorensen and Orr, the Roadrunners rallied and bounced back to take a 24-22 lead after a pair of USU errors sandwiched around a UTSA ace. A kill by Sorensen pulled the Aggies within one, 24-23, but an attack error by Orr gave the Roadrunners the 25-23 set win.
In the fourth frame, UTSA jumped out to a 5-1 lead, forcing a USU timeout, but the Aggies rallied back to take a 15-13 lead after a kill by Orr was followed by a service ace from senior Kassi Hargrove (Reno, Nev.). Consecutive kills from Orr gave the Aggies a 23-19 advantage, and the Roadrunners called a timeout. Three plays after the break, Orr ended the set with a kill for USU's match-clinching 25-20 win.
In addition to 17 kills, Adams also led UTSA with 19 digs. Brandy Huskey notched 39 assists, and Brittney Malloy added seven blocks.
The Aggies will wrap up their season-long seven match road swing on Saturday, Sept. 15, playing at Texas State at San Marcos, Texas. The Bobcats are also in their first season in the WAC and opened league play with a 3-1 win over San Jose State Thursday night to even their record at 6-6. First serve from Texas State's Strahan Coliseum is slated for 1 p.m. (MT).
Fans can follow this Saturday's action with "live stats," "watch live" and "listen live" links on the USU athletics website.
The Aggies return home to the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum to host another conference team, 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.
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