Behind the resolute defense led by redshirt-freshman middle blocker Elle Brainard and a solid offensive attack led by senior outside hitter Josselyn White, Utah State volleyball topped the Thunderbirds of Southern Utah 3-1 (24-26, 25-23, 25-18, 25-14) Saturday afternoon in the USU Invitational sponsored by Gossner Foods at the USU Dee Glen Smith Spectrum.
The Aggies rebounded from Friday night's heartbreaking 3-2 loss to Utah to improve to 2-1 on the season. SUU ended its weekend action at 0-3.
Brainard notched a career-high nine block assists, while senior opposite side hitter Shay Sorensen added five block assists as USU had 12.5 total team blocks. White posted her first double-double of the season with a match-high 15 kills and 18 digs. Sophomore outside hitter Rachel Orr added 12 kills on a career-high .333 attack percentage (12-3-27) while Brainard, Sorenensen and sophomore middle blocker Kaitlyn VanHoff tallied seven kills apiece. Sophomore setter Paige Neves dished out 43 assists.
USU hit .241 (53-21-133) for the match, including .366 (18-3-41) in set two.
Southern Utah notched a .115 (45-27-156) attack percentage and was led by Ana Mailoto with 11 kills. Hailey Moore added 10 digs while Cashaana Renfro tallied four block assists, and Gabi Mirand dished out 36 assists.
The Aggies jumped out to a 16-11 lead after a service ace by Sorensen and later had a 20-14 lead after a kill from Sorensen. However the Thunderbirds stormed back with a 7-1 streak to knot the score at 21-all. After SUU took a 24-23 lead, Orr notched a kill before two T-Bird points ended the set.
In the second frame, Orr pounded three kills in a row, and USU later opened a 15-10 lead after a SUU service error. After SUU closed to 22-20, Brainard regained control for the Aggies with a kill and Orr captured the set win at 25-23 for USU with a kill.
Utah State mixed in kills by Orr and Sorensen with some attack and service errors from Southern Utah to top a 14-9 lead, and Brainard later put the Aggies ahead, 17-11. Holding a 22-18 lead, White smashed two kills before an error by SUU gave the Aggies the set at 25-18.
The Aggies opened up a 14-7 lead in set four after kills by Sorensen and White. After the veterans gave USU a big lead, underclassmen sealed the win as sophomore outside hitter Jamaica Alisa and freshman outside hitter Candace Richins had kills to end the match for the Aggies at 25-14.
After Utah and Portland square off at 5 p.m., the Aggies conclude Invitational action against Weber State at 7:30 p.m.
Ticket prices are $5 for adults and $1 for youth ages 3-14. The USU Athletics Ticket Office will open at 9 a.m. on Friday and 8:30 a.m. on Saturday. Utah State volleyball tickets are available in person at the USU Athletics Ticket Office at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum.
Live stats of every match during the 2012 Utah State Invitational are available via the USU Athletics web site at www.utahstateaggies.com, the official web site of USU athletics via GameTracker, with the links for GameTracker as well as box scores and recaps of all the matches at the Tournament Central page at http://bit.ly/NJ8loQ. Match and tournament updates will also be available on twitter at twitter.com/USUVolleyball.
The Utah State matches of the 2012 Utah State Invitational will be streamed on the Internet by clicking on the "Watch Live" link at www.UtahStateAggies.com, the official web site of USU athletics. There is a Utah State All-Access Monthly Subscription for $9.95 and a Utah State All-Access Yearly Subscription for $79.95.
Doug Hoffman is the assistant athletic director for Utah State University Athletic Media Relations.