Utah State volleyball continued to make history Saturday, clinching at least a share of its first Western Athletic Conference regular-season title with a 3-1(25-17, 25-13, 22-25, 25-21) win over New Mexico State in Las Cruces, N.M.
This is the first WAC regular-season title for the navy Aggies, adding to Utah State's WAC Tournament title won in 2010. USU's last conference title was winning the Eastern Division of the Big West in 1999 under Tom Peterson. Current USU head coach Grayson DuBose was an assistant on that team and has now been a part of the last two conference titles.
USU's regular-season sweep over NMSU was the first since both teams joined the WAC for the 2005 season.
With the win, the northern Aggies improve to 19-7 overall and 14-2 in WAC play. NMSU falls to 18-8 overall and 11-4 in conference matches.
USU also won its eighth-straight road match for a new school record for single-season consecutive road wins in a season, topping the previous mark of seven from 1978. The Aggies won their sixth-straight win overall as well as winning their ninth WAC match in their last 10, winning 11 of their last 13 matches overall. The 19 wins this season are also the second-most during DuBose's seven seasons at the helm of the Aggie program behind 24 victories in 2010.
The Aggies had three players in double digits in kills, led by 13 kills from senior outside hitter Josselyn White (Smithfield, Utah). Senior opposite side hitter Shay Sorensen (North Ogden, Utah) and sophomore outside hitter Rachel Orr (Thatcher, Ariz.) added 12 kills each.
Sophomore setter Paige Neves (Otto, Wyo.) also dished out a match-high 36 assists, leaving her with 979 assists on the season, 21 shy from the 1,000 assists milestone. Neves also had a double-double on the night with 36 assists and 10 digs.
Redshirt-freshman middle blocker Elle Brainard (Saratoga Springs, Utah) had four blocks on the night, giving her 140 this season. She now moves up to eighth on the single-season block list. Brainard now has 134 block assists, which places sixth on the single-season list.
New Mexico State was led by a 15-kill performance from Lauren Loerch, who was one of three southern Aggies to reach double figures in kills.
USU came out strong in the first set, jumping out to a 6-3 lead after an Orr kill. Later in the set, USU used a 3-0 run to stretch its lead to 19-13 after a shared block by Sorensen and sophomore middle blocker Kaitlyn VanHoff (Draper, Utah). The teams traded points with USU keeping at least a five-point advantage. Utah State finished of the 25-17 first set win with a Brainard kill.
In the second set, the navy Aggies continued their strong play. A Loerch kill tied the scored at 4-4, but from that point. Utah State churned out three-straight points to take a 7-4 lead. The visiting Aggies did not look back in that set jumping out to a 18-10 advantage after a White kill. USU later scored the final three points of the frame to take the second set, 25-13.
New Mexico State battled back in set three, as the set began with the pair of Aggies trading points, as there were a total of five ties in the set. NMSU pulled away from a 12-12 tie with four unanswered points, capped by a block by Desiree Scott and Bradley Nash for a 16-12 lead. USU pulled within 23-20 on a service ace by freshman defensive specialist McKell Staheli (Pleasant Grove, Utah), but NMSU closed out the set with a kill by Meredith Hays at 25-22.
The fourth frame saw even more ties, with eight in the set. After the visiting Aggies took a 14-11 lead on a kill by Orr, the home team surged ahead with four-straight points for a 15-14 lead. The score was later tied at 21-all before USU sealed the victory with four unanswered, staring with an NMSU service error, then another Staheli ace preceded two more NMSU errors to capture the set, the match and the share of the regular-season WAC title for Utah State at 25-21.
USU will play at San Jose State on Saturday, Nov. 10, in its final road match of the regular season, before returning home to host Texas State on Wednesday, Nov. 14, in the Aggies' final home match. It will be Senior Night. USU will be honoring its three seniors: Kassi Hargrove, Shay Sorensen and Josselyn White.
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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