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USU volleyball: Utah State captures four-set home victory over Air Force

Freshman middle Corinne Larsen (left) and sophomore outside Gabbi Shumway (right) combine for one of a season-best 17 blocks against Air Force on Thursday night.
Freshman middle Corinne Larsen (left) and sophomore outside Gabbi Shumway (right) combine for one of a season-best 17 blocks against Air Force on Thursday night.
Rick Parker, USU Athletics

Utah State volleyball recorded a season-high 17 blocks, the most blocks by the Aggies in a match since the 2014 season, and used the performance to post a 3-1 (24-26, 25-19, 25-23, 25-22) victory over the Air Force Falcons on Thursday night. The victory moved USU to 4-17 on the year and 2-8 in the Mountain West, while AFA dropped to 13-9 and 3-5 in league play.

Three Aggies tied for the team lead in kills as freshman middle Corinne Larsen, sophomore outside Gabbi Shumway and sophomore right side Bailey Downing recorded 10 kills apiece. Larsen was the most efficient hitter among the group, hitting .350 (10-3-20) while finishing second on the block with seven.

Freshman middle Preslee Jensen, making her third start of the year, led the Aggies with a match-high eight blocks, including career highs of one solo block and seven block assists. Senior libero Tasia Taylor led a trio of Aggies with double-digit kills, recording 17 during the match. She was followed by redshirt junior outside Ally Packard with 11 and sophomore defensive specialist Madi Olson-Shepherd with 10. Senior setter Kassidy Johnson recorded 34 of Utah State's 39 assists as the Aggies hit .164 (44-21-140) during the match.

The two teams played through 12 ties in the opening set as Utah State carried the lead for most of the frame until back-to-back points by the Falcons gave the visitors their first lead of the match at 15-14. Utah State later countered with three-straight points to take a 21-19 lead, but Air Force answered with a 5-1 run to take set point, 24-22. Following a Utah State timeout, Larsen recorded a kill and then Packard recorded an ace to tie the score again at 24-24. However, AFA recorded back-to-back kills to close out the set, 26-24.

Air Force maintained the momentum going into the second set, scoring the opening two points to take a quick 2-0 lead. Utah State then took over with a pair of three-point runs that gave the home side a 12-7 lead and forced an AFA timeout. The Aggies used another six-point run to take an 18-11 advantage, but Air Force came back with a five-point run of its own to cut the difference to four, 23-19. Utah State was able to square the match at one set apiece as Shumway recorded a kill and Johnson and Jensen teamed up for a block to seal the set for the Aggies, 25-19.

USU used two more three-point runs in the third set to take a 13-7 advantage midway through the frame, leading to an Air Force timeout. The Falcons came out of the break with a block and later came back to tie the set at 18-18. However, an attacking error by AFA and a service ace by Taylor gave the Aggies a two-point lead, 20-18, and an advantage that was never given up down the stretch. Air Force came to within one three times over the next several rallies, but a final solo block by Jensen wrapped up the set for Utah State, 25-23.

Utah State opened the fourth set with a 5-1 run, including four-straight Air Force attacking errors. The Falcons battled back to tie the frame at 5-5 before the Aggies scored four straight to take a 9-5 lead, capped by a kill by Larsen. The Utah State attack stalled with a 13-10 lead, and Air Force capitalized by scoring four straight to take its first lead of the set, 14-13. The Aggies countered with a four-point run of their own, including three-straight blocks to take a 17-14 lead and force an AFA timeout.

The Falcons came out of the break with a kill and later took a 19-18 lead before the Aggies closed out the set with a 7-3 run to capture the match, 25-22.

Air Force was led by a trio of double-digit attackers in Abigail Miksch with 16, followed by Denise Ssozi with 15 and Lauren Heldt with 10. Ssozi finished the night with a double-double after logging 15 digs, second only to Alex King with a team-best 16.

Utah State will remain at home for its next matches, opening the second half of its Mountain West slate with a contest against San José State on Thursday, Oct. 25, at 7 p.m., followed by a clash with Nevada on Saturday, Oct. 27, at 7:30 p.m. Fans can follow both matches via live stats and live video links on the volleyball schedule page online.