DENVER, Colo. – Despite several furious comebacks throughout the match, the Air Force volleyball team dropped a 3-2 decision to UC Irvine at the Pioneer Classic in Denver on Saturday, Aug. 31. The Falcons, who rallied to take the first set 25-23 and forced extra time in a 31-29 loss during the second, split the next two sets (25-16 loss, 26-24 win), before falling 15-10 in the fifth.
The Falcons accounted 10 service aces, marking their first double-digit ace total since mid-September. Juniors Ayesha Hein and Emma Dridge each accounted for three, while sophomore Rebecca Bates and senior Cami Richan.
Sophomore Akokwe Clement led the Falcons with 13 kills, while Richan accounted for nine. Junior Hillary Keltner, who tallied 38 assists, tallied another double-double behind a career-high 25 digs. Air Force had three players with at least 10 digs, as Dridge and Bates joined Keltner with respective totals of 19 and 10. Sophomore Raquel Rosas assisted on a team-leading five blocks.
Richan opened the match with a kill, while a pair of scores from Clement gave the Falcons a 4-2 lead. UC Irvine scored 11 of the next 12 points, while a kill by sophomore Maggie Sherrill interrupted an overall 15-3 run by the Anteaters that resulted in a 16-8 deficit for Air Force. Sherrill and Richan tallied kills, as the Falcons found themselves trailing 19-10. A kill from Richan sparked a 13-3 run by Air Force, which included kills from Sherrill (three), Hein (two) and Clement (two), as well as aces from Dridge (two) and Hein (one). A block from Keltner and Rosas – the team’s first of the season – brought the Falcons to set-point, while a kill from Sherrill completed the comeback and the 25-23 victory.
After UC Irvine took the first two points of the second set, Air Force responded with a 4-0 run that included a service ace by Bates and an assisted block from Sherrill and Rosas. Another block, this time from Rosas and Richan, kept the Falcons with a two-point advantage. The Anteaters pulled within one (9-8), but kills from Clement and Richan allowed the Falcons to maintain the lead. A service ace by Hein put the Falcons ahead by five (19-14), but UC Irvine cut into the lead and eventually tying the set at 22. The Anteaters reached set-point (24-22), but Air Force tallied the next three points to extend the game. The two teams traded the next several points, with the Falcons earning their points off of kills from Keltner and Richan, as well as another assisted block from Keltner and Rosas. After tying the set at 29-all, UC Irvine tallied the final two points for the 31-29 victory.
The third set opened with kills from Hein and Rosas, before UC Irvine took a 7-4 advantage. Richan recorded a service ace to pull Air Force within one (7-6), but the Anteaters quickly doubled up the Falcons at the 14-7 mark. Hein added another ace to halt UC Irvine’s 5-0 run. Rosas, Keltner, Clement and Hein added kills during the final minutes, but the Anteaters claimed the 25-16 win.
Rosas accounted for two of the Falcons’ first three points in the fourth set, while another ace from Dridge gave the Falcons a 4-3 advantage. UC Irvine evened the score at six, but Hein put down a kill to break the tie and the trio of Sherrill (8-6), Keltner (9-7) and Richan (11-9) kept the Falcons ahead by two. The Anteaters took the lead at the 16-15 mark and extended their lead to 21-16. Bates put down an ace and Richan added a kill, but UC Irvine reached set point at 24-20. Clement put down back-to-back kills, while Hein teamed with Clement and Keltner for back-to-back blocks, as Air Force deadlocked the score at 24-all. Richan followed up a UCI attacking error with her second ace of the game, as the Falcons completed the comeback with a 26-24 win.
UC Irvine jumped out to a fast 7-1 lead to start the fifth set and extended its lead to 11-4. A kill from Hein started a 6-3 Air Force run that cut the Falcons’ deficit to four (14-10). Sherrill and Hein added kills during that stretch, while Richan and Rosas teamed up for another block, but the Anteaters claimed the final point for the 15-10 victory.
The Falcons conclude the Pioneer Classic this evening, when they take on Texas A&M Corpus Christi at 5 p.m.