Utah State volleyball (1-2, 0-0 MW) hits the road for the first time of the 2014 season, traveling to Irvine, California, to participate in the two-day, four-team UC Irvine Invitational on Friday and Saturday, Sept. 5-6. All six matches of the UC Irvine Invitational will be held at UCI’s Crawford Court. USU kicks off the tournament by facing Pepperdine on Friday at 11 a.m. MT, in the first matchup between the Aggies and Waves since 1999. USU returns to the court Friday at 6 p.m., to tangle with old Western Athletic Conference foe Idaho. On Saturday, the Aggies take on host and former fellow Big West Conference foe UC Irvine at 3 p.m.
Fans can follow the Aggies in action via the Utah State Aggies website for all three USU matches at the UC Irvine Invitational. Match updates will also be available on Twitter.
The Aggies have won 16 of their last 25 matches, currently at 1-2 in the young stages of the 2014 ledger, after opening Kirby Court at Wayne Estes Center in grand fashion with a thrilling 3-1 win over Idaho State on Aug. 29, to complete the first day of action of the Utah State Invitational. USU returned to the court on Aug. 30, dropping a five-setter to Oregon State in the morning and a four-set loss to Saint Mary's at night to close out tournament action.
Two USU seniors, middle blocker Kaitlyn VanHoff and libero Ashlan Rogers-Court, were named to the Utah State Invitational all-Tournament team. VanHoff averaged 12 kills per match, including a .250 attack percentage (36-15-84), posting 3.58 points, 2.77 kills, 0.85 blocks and 0.54 digs per set. Rogers-Court notched 28 digs per match, highlighted by a career-high 37 on Aug. 30 against Oregon State. For the weekend, Rogers-Court averaged 6.46 digs per set.
Senior outside hitter Rachel Orr leads USU with a 3.69 kills per set average, adding a .233 attack percentage (48-17-133), and posting 3.62 digs and 0.77 blocks per set. Orr logged double-doubles in all three matches on the weekend, tallying 19 kills and 17 digs against Idaho State on Friday night, then registered 15 kills and 14 against Oregon State on Saturday morning before posting 14 kills and 16 digs in the Saint Mary’s match Saturday night.
Senior setter Paige Neves notched 47.7 assists per match on the weekend, highlighted by 50 against Oregon State. She averaged 11.0 assists per set, adding 2.38 digs and 0.46 blocks per set. Junior opposite side hitter Elle Brainard led USU’s defense at the net with 1.62 blocks per set, averaging seven per match, boosted by 11 total blocks in the Oregon State match, tying career bests of two solos and nine assists.
Utah State has three players from California: sophomore defensive specialist Hannah Gleason (Las Flores/Tesoro HS), freshman outside hitter Taylor Barnson (Temecula/Chaparral HS) and sophomore setter Erica Moscoso (Mission Viejo/Capistrano Valley HS).
This weekend marks the Aggies first of four separate trips to California and the first three of six matches in California. USU will return to the Golden State in three-consecutive weeks to play at San José State on Nov. 8, then to take on Fresno State on Nov. 15, before wrapping up the trips to play at San Diego State on Nov. 22.
Pepperdine is off to a 2-1 start after finishing in second place in its home tournament, the Asics Classic. The Waves swept South Alabama, 3-0, on Aug. 29, before returning to the court on Aug. 30 and knocking off Nevada in five, 3-2, but lost to Oral Roberts, 3-1, on Saturday night in the finale.
Idaho opened the season with a 1-2 ledger at the Florida Active Ankle Challenge in Gainesville, Florida, getting swept by Oklahoma and 10th-ranked and host Florida on Aug. 29, before bouncing back to collect the Vandals' first win of the season with a 3-1 victory over Georgia Southern.
UC Irvine began the season with a 1-2 mark as well, after dropping its first two games of the Queen City Classic in Cincinnati, Ohio, last weekend. UCI lost at Xavier, 3-1, on Aug. 29, then got swept at Cincinnati before getting its first win of the season with a 3-1 victory over Duquesne.
Utah State and Idaho were in the Big West Conference together from 1996 to 2004, before departing for the WAC together, where they were league foes from 2005 to 2012, before USU left the WAC in 2013 to join the Mountain West. Idaho left the WAC this past summer to join the Big Sky Conference. USU and UC Irvine were in the Big West Conference together from 1990 to 2004, before USU departed the league to join the WAC.
Utah State remains on the road next weekend, heading to Honolulu to play in the Hawai'i Outrigger Volleyball Challenge on Sept. 11-13, before returning home to Kirby Court at Wayne Estes Center to battle Beehive State foe Utah on Wednesday, Sept. 17 at 7 p.m.
Season tickets for the inaugural Utah State volleyball season at Kirby Court at Wayne Estes Center are now on sale. Fans can get reserved chair back season tickets for $50, while general admission season tickets are $40. Additionally, fans can purchase a Women’s Sports Pass for $75, which is good for general admission to all volleyball, women’s basketball and gymnastics home events.
Utah State volleyball season and single-match tickets are available by contacting the USU Ticket Office at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum during its office hours or by calling 1-888-USTATE-1 or (435) 797-0305. Season tickets can also be purchased online.