Utah State moved ahead 6-5 in the second game on a play in which Utah's top volleyball player, Brenda Barton-Whicker, slumped to the court after tweaking an ankle.

It was the turning point in Tuesday night's nonleague-but-still-important match.But not the turning point you might expect, since it was a Ute who was hurt.

The Utes did the turning. After losing the first game 15-12 to the Aggies on Crimson Court, Utah won three straight games, 15-9, 15-9, 15-6 for the 3-1 win.

"We kind of weren't focusing on things," said coach Beth Launiere about the Utes' play prior to Barton-Whicker's twisted ankle. "When she did that, everyone had to settle down and play smarter. She just feels like her ankle's hurt, so she's got to play smarter instead of trying to overpower them, and as soon as she did that, she took off. Brenda's always played her best when she was sick or hurt."

Barton-Whicker had a .367 hitting percentage with 26 kills (eight errors) on 49 attempts. The kill figure was one shy of her four-game career-best. Stacie Greenwalt added a .360 percentage (15 kills, six errors, 25 attempts) and six blocks. Sara Shakula had 15 kills, rebounding from her worst match of the season in a 3-2 loss at Wyoming Saturday. Utah kept its No. 7 district seed after that loss.

Utah concentrated on its middle blocking against USU's Denae Mohl-man, who had 26 and 27 kills in weekend matches. She had 10 Tuesday. "They put two blockers on her every time," said third-year Aggie coach Ginny Alexander. "We struggled. We need to change some sets." Aggie setter Lori Sargent had 10 kills also, with two errors in 27 tries.

"Our strength is defense and ball control," said Alexander, and the Ag defense was impressive and active. At one point in the third game, Utah up 7-5, there were 10 straight sideouts, and twice in the match, there were six sideouts in a row.

"Hats off to Ginny. They're playing great defense," Launiere said.

The 15-13 Aggies have already tied the number of wins they had all last season. They expect to make the Big West tournament for the first time under Alexander. They are 4-8 in the league with four winnable matches coming up.

Utah hosts WAC opponents Air Force Friday and UNLV Saturday, both at 7 p.m.