Utah State volleyball head coach Grayson DuBose announced the Aggies' 2014 schedule Wednesday. USU will play a 29-match regular season schedule in the Aggies' second season in the Mountain West Conference. Of the 29 matches, two are against in-state foes, and there are four 2013 NCAA Tournament teams, as well as two teams ranked in the final 2013 American Volleyball Coaches Association Top 25 Poll.
The Aggies will play 13 home matches in the recently opened Kirby Court at Wayne Estes Center, a 1,400-seat venue. USU posted a 114-47 (.709) record over the last 15 seasons at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum. The Aggies will play 12 matches as the visiting team and four on neutral courts, as part of two tournaments away from home. After a year hiatus, USU will host the Utah State Tournament. The Aggies' home tournament will be their season opening action on Friday and Saturday, Aug. 29-30. USU will welcome border-foe Idaho State, along with Oregon State and Saint Mary's.
"We are ecstatic that we get to open up the new Kirby Court at Wayne Estes Center by hosting a tournament at home again," DuBose said. "The folks at Gossner are such terrific supporters of not just Utah State volleyball, but all of the USU Athletics, and we're excited that we get to show off our new venue in the opening weekend of the season. We hope that our fans, in particular The HURD, will help us create a raucous environment to provide a true home court advantage."
USU will face NCAA Tournament teams Idaho State, Hawai'i and Utah in non-conference action, as well as defending MW Champion Colorado State in home-and-home action as part of the Aggies' 18 match MW ledger. Colorado State is one of two teams on USU's 2014 schedule that was ranked in the final 2013 AVCA Top 25 Poll, ranking in at No. 21. The Aggies will also face Hawai'i, which was No. 18 in the final poll.
"Our schedule this season will be very challenging, and our non-conference schedule won't be a pushover," DuBose said. 'We'll face three NCAA Tournament teams as part of our 11 non-conference matches, which will prepare us for the trials of the Mountain West schedule."
Following the season opening USU Tournament, the Aggies will open September in Irvine, California, at the UC Irvine Tournament on Friday and Saturday, Sept. 5-6, taking on Pepperdine, Idaho and UC Irvine. Utah State and Idaho were former conference foes, most recently in the Western Athletic Conference, while USU and UC Irvine were in the Big West Conference together.
"The UC Irvine Tournament will be a good test for us, facing quality teams in Pepperdine, Idaho and UC Irvine," DuBose said.
In its third and final tournament of the non-conference portion of its schedule, USU will then face another former WAC opponent, Hawai'i, at the Hawai'i Tournament on Thursday-Saturday, Sept. 11-13, in Honolulu, Hawai'i. The Aggies will also face San Francisco and UCLA.
"The Hawai'i Tournament will be a fun business trip for our team," DuBose said. "It will be fun to have some time to hang out there, but we will be there for volleyball. We face three difficult, challenging opponents in Hawai'i, San Francisco and UCLA, who are all three traditional powers of volleyball in the west."
USU returns home for a three-match home stand, hosting in-state foe Utah on Wednesday, Sept. 17, before kicking off its second season of Mountain West play against defending league champion Colorado State on Thursday, Sept. 25, and then Wyoming on Saturday, Sept. 27.
"Facing Utah and Colorado State will be perhaps our most testing back-to-back matches. We will look to be hitting on all cylinders by that part of the season, and those will be two exciting matches for our fans to cheer us on," DuBose said.
To open the October portion of the ledger, the Aggies will play at New Mexico on Thursday, Oct. 2, in their first road conference match, then play at Air Force on Saturday, Oct. 4. USU will return home to host San José State and Nevada on Thursday, Oct. 9 and Saturday, Oct. 11, respectively.
A match at Boise State on Tuesday, Oct. 14, will be followed by a home match against Fresno State on Thursday, Oct. 16, to complete the first half of MW play. The Aggies open up the second portion of league play at Wyoming and Colorado State on Thursday, Oct. 23 and Saturday, Oct. 25, respectively. USU then closes out October on Thursday, Oct. 30, by hosting Air Force, then kicks off November action by welcoming New Mexico to town on Saturday, Nov. 1.
A four-match road swing opens at Nevada on Thursday, Nov. 6, before USU heads to San José State on Saturday, Nov. 8. The Aggies then return to the Beehive State but take a break from conference play for an in-state battle at Utah Valley on Monday, Nov. 10, before returning to California on Saturday, Nov. 15, to play at Fresno State.
USU closes out the season with two home matches during a three-match span, opening by hosting UNLV on Wednesday, Nov. 19, before playing its final regular season road match at San Diego State on Saturday, Nov. 22. The Aggies will host Boise State on Tuesday, Nov. 25, in their final home match of the season.
The Mountain West does not have a conference tournament. The first and second rounds of the NCAA Tournament will be the first weekend in December.
Utah State finished the 2013 season with a 20-11 overall record and went 13-7 in Mountain West action to finish third in the Aggies' first season in the league. It was USU's second 20-win season in a row and third in the last four years, all under DuBose. After going 21-9 in 2012, Utah State has now posted back-to-back 20-win seasons since 2000 and 2001, when USU won 22 matches in 2000 and 20 in 2001. Overall, the Aggies registered their 12th 20-win season in school history in the 38 seasons of Aggie volleyball.
USU returns its lone all-Mountain West honoree in opposite side hitter Elle Brainard, who will be a junior. The Aggies return four other starters in senior outside hitter Rachel Orr, senior setter Paige Neves, senior middle blocker Kaitlyn VanHoff and senior libero Ashlan Rogers-Court.
Also returning are senior opposite side hitter Jamaica Alisa, sophomore defensive specialist Hannah Gleason, sophomore opposite side hitter Kayla DeCoursey, sophomore outside hitter Kaylie Kamalu, sophomore middle blocker Carly Lenzen and sophomore setter Erica Moscoso. Outside hitter Maddie Day and middle blocker Hannah Smith redshirted last season and are expected to continue their improvement this spring. Utah State looks to replace their two-player senior class of 2013 in outside hitter Tumua Etimani and middle blocker Alyssa Everett.
Several of the Aggie returners made their marks in the USU record books and will continue their pursuits of several other marks.
Neves finished last season with 1,147 assists, moving up to No. 9 on the USU single-season assists list. She also now has 3,118 career helpers, entering her senior season No. 4 on the Aggies' career assists list.
Rogers-Court ended the 2013 season with 503 digs, becoming just the fifth player in USU history with 500 digs in a single season and first since single-season record holder Christine Morrill's 573 digs in 2010. Additionally, Rogers-Court is the third Aggie player with 1,200 career digs and will open her senior season with 1,203 total digs. Ending with 36 aces last season, Rogers-Court was two aces shy of cracking into the Aggies' single-season aces list.
VanHoff is No. 4 on the single-season block assists list with 143 from the 2013 season, as well as No. 4 on the total blocks list. She also is No. 2 on the USU career total blocks list with 416, while also ranking second on the Aggies' career block assists list with 395.