USAF ACADEMY, Colo. – The Air Force volleyball team closed out the non-conference portion of its season with a 3-2 loss to Utah Valley on Saturday, Sept. 21, at the Academy’s East Gym. Despite recording a season-high 26 total blocks, the Falcons fell 2-3 in five-set matches with the 25-18, 18-25, 19-25, 25-18, 3-15 loss.
Blocking was the storyline for Air Force, who surpassed its previous season high just eight points into the second set. Sophomore Raquel Rosas assisted on a career-high eight blocks, while juniors Hillary Keltner and Ayesha Hein each recorded a pair of solo stops, en route to overall totals of six and five, respectively. Senior Cami Richan and sophomore Akokwe Clement both recorded multiple blocks (all assisted), as the Falcons bettered their previous total by 10.
Clement tied for the match lead with 13 kills, while classmate Maggie Sherrill added 10. Keltner collected her 20th career double-double (38 assists and 11 digs), while hitting .500 on four-of-eight attacking. Senior Josalynn Wise recorded tallied season-high three service aces, while sophomore Rebecca Bates, making her first collegiate appearance at the libero position, collected a career-high 19 digs.
“We keep playing better,” head coach Matt McShane said. “Our blocking was significantly better tonight. We just have to be more consistent.”
Utah Valley scored four of the first five points, before kills from Hein, Richan and Clement pulled the Falcons to within one and Wise tied the score at five with her first ace. A kill from Sherrill evened the set at six, while a block from Keltner and Rosas gave the Falcons their first lead of the night. Rosas teamed up with Richan for another block and junior Emma Dridge served up an ace, as the Falcons took a 12-8 advantage. A 4-0 run by the Wolverines tied the set at 12, but kills from Richan and Keltner, as well as a block by Keltner and Hein put the Falcons up 17-15. Utah Valley pulled within one (19-18), but Air Force scored the next six points, including three blocks and a pair of kills from Richan, to take the first set 25-18.
Richan scored the opening point of the second set, but Utah Valley quickly doubled the Falcons up 6-3. Air Force responded with its own run to tie the set at six on another Wise ace and take the lead with back-to-back blocks (8-6). Following a tie at 10-all, the two teams traded points, with Air Force earning its scores off of kills from Keltner (two), Sherrill, Richan and Clement. The Wolverines scored three straight points to go ahead 17-15, before Rosas (17-16) and Sherrill (18-17) brought the Falcons within one. A kill from freshman Collette Foster broke up a 7-1 run by the visitors, as Utah Valley won 25-18.
Clement struck first in the third, while several serving errors by Utah Valley gave Air Force the early lead. Hein, Sherrill and Clement each put down a pair of kills, as the Falcons held onto a 10-9 advantage. The Wolverines scored nine of the next 12 points to go up 18-14, before Sherrill stopped their run with a kill. Foster and Rosas teamed up for a block, while two UVU errors brought Air Force within one (18-17). Utah Valley used a 6-0 run to regain control of the set and, despite a block by Hein and a kill by Clement, the Wolverines won the third set by a 25-19 margin.
The fourth set started with the two teams trading points, as the Wolverines matched every lead the Falcons took. A kill from Hein gave the Falcons their largest lead of the set (two points), but Utah Valley responded to take a 10-9 lead. Rosas put down a kill and teamed up with Keltner for a block, as Air Force retook the lead and gained a three-point advantage (13-10). The pair added back-to-back kills (15-11), while consecutive scores from Keltner and Sherrill extended Air Force’s lead to five (18-13). Wise put down her third ace and Rosas tallied three of the Falcons’ final four kills as Air Force evened the match at two with a 25-18 victory.
Air Force was unable to find a rhythm in the deciding set, as Utah Valley scored nine of the first 10 points (Clement kill). Sophomore Taylor Parker added a kill, but the Wolverines rolled to the 15-3 win.
With the non-conference season complete, Air Force returns to Mountain West action. The Falcons begin a 10-week stretch of league play on Thursday, Sept. 26, when they host 22nd-ranked Colorado State at 6 p.m., on Falcon Court at East Gym.