Utah State recovered from a somewhat slow start before righting the ship and sailing past Weber State in three sets (25-17, 25-11, 25-11) with a stellar defensive effort Saturday night at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum to conclude the USU Invitational sponsored by Gossner Foods.
Senior outside hitter Josselyn White, sophomore libero Ashlan Rogers and redshirt-freshman middle blocker Elle Brainard were named to the all-Tournament team, as USU went 3-1 on the weekend to finish in second-place. Utah won the tournament with a 4-0 record, putting McKenzie Odale, Morgan Odale, Chelsey Schofield and Erin Redd on the All-Tournament team with Redd being named MVP. Weber State's Laurel Bodily and Portland's Jacky Rodriguez were also on the All-Tournament team.
White led USU with 11 kills, hitting .474 (11-2-19) on the night, while sophomore outside hitter Rachel Orr added six kills, hitting .333 (6-1-15). Brainard had two block assists while sophomore middle blocker Kaitlyn VanHoff recorded a match-high seven block assists. USU had 10.5 total team blocks Saturday night, as they posted double-digit total team blocks in three of the four matches.
Sophomore setter Paige Neves distributed a match-high 24 assists, got into the blocking attack with one solo and three blocks assists, as well as posting three kills on quick dumps over the net. Rogers posted a match-best seven digs, while senior opposite side hitter Shay Sorensen and freshman defensive specialist McKell Staheli added six digs apiece.
The Aggies' block attack caused problems for WSU, which hit -.057 (26-31-88) for the match. The Wildcats, who ended the weekend with a 1-2 mark, were led by Audrey Biggs with nine kills, while Mariah Kato added seven and Rebecca Fuchs had six. Four WSU players that had four or more attacks had a negative hitting percentage.
Whitney Hunt tallied 14 assists, while Bodily had a team-best five digs. Biggs, Shanae Burgin and Briana Wilms added three block assists each, helping the Wildcats to 6.5 total blocks.
Weber State head coach Tom Peterson was head coach for the Aggies from 1999-2000. During that time, USU head coach Grayson DuBose was an assistant on Peterson’s staff, and in 2010, Peterson returned to USU and was an assistant on DuBose’s Western Athletic Conference Tournament Championship season. DuBose is now 2-0 against his mentor after USU beat WSU in five last season in Ogden.
The teams showed signs of both playing their second match of the day with sluggish starts, as both teams had a handful of attack errors in the early going. Yet the Aggies held strong, getting a kill from Orr to precede a pair of attack errors from Weber State for a 10-9 USU advantage, the Aggies' first of the set. Senior setter Kassi Hargrove later served up an ace followed by another WSU attack error for USU's largest lead of the frame up to that point at 19-14 to force a Wildcat timeout. When play resumed, Biggs had a kill to pull WSU within 19-15, but that be the closest the Wildcats would get and USU took advantage of some WSU errors to take set one, 25-17.
In the second frame, a kill from Sorensen gave Utah State a 14-7 lead, and White later served up five-straight points for a 20-9 lead. After a sideout point by WSU, Hargrove served up four Aggie points, and Sorensen ended the set with a kill to give USU a 25-11 set win.
The Aggies pulled away from a 7-6 lead with five straight points from Sorensen's serving to stretch its lead to 12-6. A kill by White later put USU on top at 16-9. The Wildcats scratched back to pull within 20-17, but a kill by VanHoff stopped the rally and the Aggies closed the door on another threat, clinching the sweep in the process.
After opening the season with four home matches, Utah State now hits the road for its next seven matches, starging with three in the San Diego State Aztec Invitational next weekend in San Diego, Calif. USU will open action against Montana on Friday, Aug. 31 at 6 p.m. (MT), before taking on Sacred Heart on Saturday, Sept. 1 at 6 p.m. before facing host SDSU at 8 p.m.
Utah State will play at the Kansas State Invitational on Sept. 7-8 and then open up WAC 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 another conference new 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 phone by calling 1-888-USTATE-1 or (435) 797-0305.
Doug Hoffman is the assistant athletic director for Utah State University Athletic Media Relations.