Utah State volleyball had three players with 12 kills each, but it wasn't enough as the Aggies had their four-match win streak snapped by host San Diego State Saturday night, falling in four sets (17-25, 25-23, 22-25, 18-25) in the final match of the SDSU Aztec Challenge at Aztec Court at Peterson Gym.
SDSU claimed the title of its own tournament while USU finished second. Sophomore outside hitter Rachel Orr (Thatcher, Ariz.) and redshirt-freshman middle blocker Elle Brainard (Saratoga Springs, Utah) were named to the all-tournament team. It was Brainard's second all-tournament team honor in as many weeks after being named to the USU Invitational sponsored by Gossner Foods all-tournament team. For Orr, it was the first all-tournament team honor of her career.
The Aggies are now 5-2 on the year while the Aztecs improved to 5-0. SDSU was second among others receiving votes in this week's top 25 poll. With Saturday's win, the Aggies now have a 4-6-1 all-time record against the Aztecs.
Orr, senior Shay Sorensen (North Ogden, Utah) and freshman Candace Richins (Kaysville, Utah) all had 12 kills apiece as USU had a .212 attack percentage (47-19-132), hitting .265 (15-6-34) in set two. Orr hit .417 (12-2-24) while Brainard notched a team-best .429 (7-1-14) while adding a team-leading five total blocks. USU had nine total blocks in the match, just its second match of the season with less than 10 total blocks.
Sophomore setter Paige Neves dished out 37 assists while Sorensen led USU with 12 digs, and sophomore libero Ashlan Rogers (Highland, Utah) posted 11 digs.
SDSU hit .295 (66-22-149) for the match, hitting a match-best .424 (17-3-33) in set four. Andrea Hannasch led the Aztecs with 15 kills while Michelle Waber added 14 kills and 11 digs on the way to being named tournament MVP and was joined on the all-tournament team by teammate Emily Harris, who posted seven kills and six blocks Saturday night. Summer Nash tallied 11 kills while Chaiymin Steel added 10 kills.
The Aztecs jumped out to a 12-7 lead after a Steel kill, and the Aggies couldn't get any closer. In the second set, SDSU led 11-7 after a USU attack error, but the visitors scored the next four points after a service ace by Rogers knotted the score at 11-all. After a kill by Steel gave SDSU a 12-11 lead, three-straight Aztec errors gave USU a 14-12 lead, and the Aggies led for most of the remainder of the set until SDSU took a 23-21 lead. Back-to-back kills from Sorensen and Brainard tied the score at 23-all, and the Aztecs called timeout to try to slow the Aggies, but Richins ended the set at 25-23 with consecutive kills.
In set three, USU opened up a 7-3 advantage after a Brainard kill, but SDSU stormed back to take a 16-15 lead and pulled away to take the set, 25-22. The Aztecs opened an 8-4 lead in the fourth stanza. USU pulled within 17-15 after a Sorensen kill and an SDSU attack error, but the Aggies couldn't get any closer, falling 25-18 to end the match.
USU's seven-match road swing continues next weekend at the Kansas State Invitational on Sept. 7-8 before Utah State opens up its final season in the Western Athletic Conference with action in Texas against league newcomers UTSA on Sept. 13 and at Texas State on Sept. 15. The Aggies return home to 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 calling 1-888-USTATE-1 or (435) 797-0305.
SDSU Aztec Challenge All-Tournament Team
Kayla Reno, Montana
Alissa Young, Sacred Heart
Rachel Orr, Utah State
Elle Brainard, Utah State
Emily Harris, San Diego State
Michelle Waber, San Diego State (MVP)
Doug Hoffman is the assistant athletic director for Utah State University Athletic Media Relations.