Utah State head women's volleyball coach Grayson DuBose announced the 2017 schedule, featuring tournaments at Arkansas and Northern Arizona, and head-to-head matches with three in-state opponents.
The Aggies open the 2017 campaign in Fayetteville, Arkansas, in a tournament hosted by Arkansas on Aug. 25-26. USU will be one of four teams in the tournament, joining first-time opponents CSU Bakersfield and Louisiana-Monroe. CSUB finished the 2016 campaign with an overall mark of 14-15 but finished tied for second in the WAC with a league mark of 10-4. ULM was 9-25 last season, including a league mark of 3-13 in the Sun Belt. Arkansas was 9-21 last season under first-year head coach Jason Watson.
Utah State will then host a tournament on Sept. 1-2, welcoming Montana State and former Big West rivals Pacific and UC Santa Barbara to Kirby Court at the Wayne Estes Center. The weekend will mark the fourth-consecutive year that the Aggies have hosted a tournament.
Montana State finished the 2016 season with an overall mark of 5-20 under second-year head coach JJ Riley, a former assistant at Utah. The Aggies have not faced Pacific since the 2013 season and UCSB since 2008, but they have a long history with both schools, having been a part of the Big West from 1990-2004. Pacific finished the 2016 season 15-15 and 9-9 in the West Coast Conference, while UCSB finished 17-12 overall and 8-8 in the Big West.
Utah State will face its first in-state opponent in Utah Valley on Sept. 5, before traveling to Flagstaff, Arizona, to take part in the Northern Arizona Tournament, facing Arizona State and CSU Bakersfield for the second time in tournament play. NAU finished second in the south division of the Big Sky last season, wrapping up the year with a 12-4 league mark and an overall record of 24-8. Arizona State was 12-20 last season, including a 5-15 finish in the Pac-12.
The Aggies will then face a pair of in-state opponents in back-to-back matches, traveling to Weber State on Sept. 13, and Southern Utah on Sept. 17. Both schools feature former assistants to DuBose at Utah State in WSU head coach Jeremiah Larsen and SUU head coach Craig Choate.
Utah State then opens its Mountain West slate, hosting San Diego State and Fresno State, Sept. 21 and 23, respectively. The Aggies take their first conference road trip the following weekend with stops at UNLV and New Mexico on Sept. 28 and 30, respectively.
USU opens the month of October with three-straight home matches, hosting Wyoming, Colorado State and Boise State, Oct. 5, 7 and 10, respectively. The three-match homestand is followed by a three-match road swing at Air Force, Fresno State and San Diego State. The Aggies close out the month with home matches against New Mexico and UNLV on Oct. 26 and 28, respectively.
Utah State begins the final month of the season on the road at Colorado State on Nov. 2, Wyoming on Nov. 4 and Boise State on Nov. 7, before returning home to host Air Force and Nevada. The match against the Wolf Pack will coincide with Senior Night, when the Aggies will recognize their senior class of outside hitters Rachel Gale and Lauren Anderson, opposite Kayla DeCoursey and middle Carly Lenzen.
The 2017 regular season will conclude with the season finale at San José State on Nov. 18. However, the season could continue with an NCAA Tournament berth or a bid to a second postseason tournament, similar to the NIT, which is scheduled to begin play next season.
Utah State returns it leading hitter in Anderson, who led the team with 377 kills, averaging 3.52 per set en route to all-Mountain West honors last season. She is joined on the outside by Gale, who led the Aggies as a sophomore two years ago with 355 kills, averaging 3.17 per set. Utah State also returns three more of its top-five hitters from a season ago in DeCoursey (255 kills), as well as middles Lenzen (186 kills) and Lauren O'Brien (159 kills).
They will be joined by middle Ashley Wesenberg, who appeared in three matches for the Aggies last season, and newcomers Gabbi Shumway (Lone Peak HS), Bailey Downing (Lovejoy HS) and Ally Packard (Snow College). Ashlee Thornock rounds out the hitters after spending last season as a redshirt but competing in every match for the Aggies during the spring.
In addition to Thornock, redshirt setter Jaysa Funk and redshirt defensive specialist Madi Olson saw time in matches this past spring and will be looked at to contribute following the graduation of starters Erica Moscoso at setter and Hannah Gleason at libero. Moscoso wrapped up her career 10th in school history with 1,835 career assists and Gleason finished her career with three career records, including sets played (450/first), digs (1,410/fourth) and matches played (120/tied for eighth).
Returners Kassidy Johnson and Tasia Taylor will also look to transition into those spots as Johnson appeared in 13 matches last season at setter and 24 matches as a freshman, including 12 starts. Taylor has averaged close to 200 digs per season in her first two years, totaling 223 digs as a freshman and 182 digs as a sophomore.
Kyle Cottam is the Assistant Athletic Director for Media Relations at Utah State University.