Utah State volleyball starts off Mountain West play with a win
Logan • After Wednesday night, Utah State coach Grayson DuBose won't have to tweak the scouting report much.
In the Aggies' first home game, they swept Boise State. And if they can replicate that success at the Broncos' house on Saturday, they'll be off to a pretty good start in their new conference.
"We'll just remember the scouting report," he said. "We'll just have to remember what we did tonight and do it again."
The Aggies (7-4, 1-0) celebrated their first Mountain West conference game with a 3-0 win (25-17, 25-21, 25-20) over the visiting Broncos (5-5, 0-1), breaking down Boise with superior height and hitting precision. Errors dogged the Broncos throughout, in part because of Utah State's defense and ability to win points in transition.
In front of nearly 1,000 fans gathered to see the team for the first time, they blitzed Boise State in the first set, then battled back in two tougher ones. Elle Brainard, the team's sophomore right side, led with 11 kills, and helped make life hard for the Broncos at the net.
"We consider ourselves a really good blocking team," she said. "We're really good a defense, so we kind of pride ourselves on that."
Utah State's defensive pride is well intact after holding the Broncos to 4.5 percent on attacks - Boise State nearly made as many errors as it did kills. Taylor Murphey, the team's kills leader headed into the match, was held to three.
For most of the match, Utah State's hitters looked in synch with setter Paige Neves, who wound up with 35 assists. Tumua Etimani had 10 kills while Kaitlyn VanHoff had nine.
DuBose was particularly pleased with Etimani, a senior who also had eight digs. Though she doesn't have the power of some of the team's top hitters, she's carved a niche with finesse points.
"She's been a fun kid to watch," Dubose said. "She's kinda crafty, she's got all these little shots going and all these little things that are unexpected. I think she kind of throws other teams off."
The third set was the most hotly contested, with the Aggies ceding an early 6-3 edge to Boise State before going through a tug-of-war struggle with the lead. They finally broke through late in the set, and finished with a Etimani kill and a block by Alyssa Everett, who had a career-high 10 block assists on the night.
"We had our ups and downs but we snapped right back into it," Etimani said.
Utah State worked their will on the Broncos early with height up front: The Aggies managed to block six shots as Boise State managed only one. Brainard led from the wings with four kills in the set, but the Broncos were also undone by 12 errors.
A tight second set went back-and-forth, leading to a 17-17 tie. But the Aggies managed a 8-4 rally to the finish, highlighted by a Rachel Orr kill from the left flank to wrap up the set.
"We're big on momentum," Brainard said. "We're a very emotional team. It's important for us to come out and jump on them from the beginning. We all get excited and get into throughout the game."
Utah State takes on Boise on Saturday at 7 p.m.
Kyle Goonkgoon@sltrib.comTwitter: @kylegoon
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