Air Force Wins Season Opener with 3-2 Thriller
Aug. 28, 2010
USAF ACADEMY, Colo. - Matt McShane earned his first victory as a head coach when the Air Force volleyball team claimed a thrilling 3-2 victory over Long Island in its season opener on Friday, Aug. 27. In front of a capacity crowd at the new Falcon Court at East Gym, Air Force won in dramatic 25-14, 22-25, 29-31, 25-19 and 15-9 fashion.
Kills by seniors Nichole Stilwell and Caroline Kurtz opened the match for the Falcons. Long Island tallied the next two points, but Stilwell posted another kill and the Falcons never looked back. Kurtz and Stilwell continued to pound away at the Blackbirds defense, collecting 11 of the team's 13 kills in the first set. With a 12-9 advantage, sophomore Maiya Perich stepped up to the serving line and rolled the Falcons out to an 18-9 lead. Freshman Annalyse Schmitt put the Falcons at set point (24-13) and an attacking error by LIU gave the Falcons the 25-14 win.
Air Force again took the early lead in the second set, but Long Island came back to tie the game at seven. The two squads traded points for the majority of the set, with neither team giving up a lead larger than two points. A kill from Kurtz gave the Falcons a 21-20 lead, but LIU came back once again to take the lead. Another score from Kurtz brought Air Force within one at 23-22, but Long Island claimed the final two points for the 25-22 win.
The Falcons once again struck first in the third set, but Long Island pulled out to an early 8-6 lead. Air Force took a 9-8 advantage behind a kill from Stilwell and back-to-back strikes by Schmitt. The two squads once again traded points, tying the next six scores. Long Island pulled out to a two-point lead (21-19), but a kill by Schmitt and a pair of attacking error by the Blackbirds put the Falcons back on top, 22-21. Air Force continued to trade points with Long Island, going past regulation as the scores deadlocked at 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28 and 29. Long Island put together back-to-back points to take the hard-fought set by a 31-29 score.
With Long Island just one set away from victory, Air Force came out firing in the fourth set, pulling out to a 14-7 lead, highlighted by a pair of kills and a service ace from Kurtz. The Blackbirds responded and climbed back into the set at the 14-12 mark. Air Force kept its narrow lead for several points, before drawing its advantage out to five (20-15). Kurtz again added a pair of scores and another ace, as the Falcons forced a deciding fifth set with a 25-19 victory.
The fifth set marked the first time that the Falcons didn't score first, but took the lead at 6-5 and entered the midway point of the set up three (8-5) behind a hard kill from Schmitt. Long Island pulled within one at 9-8, but Air Force responded behind a kill from sophomore Preslee Maki and a service ace from senior Kelly Spencer to increase its advantage to 13-8. An attacking error by LIU put the Falcons at match point and another solid kill from Schmitt gave the Falcons the dramatic 3-2 victory.
With the win, Air Force defeated a program that has been to the last six NCAA Tournaments.
Kurtz led the Falcons with 20 kills, while Stilwell and Schmitt added respective totals of 14 and 13. Kurtz and Schmitt recorded their first double-doubles of the season, adding respective dig totals of 19 and 11. In all, four Falcons recorded double-figure dig marks, including Spencer (16) and Perich (12).
Stilwell hit for an impressive .448, as she connected on 14 of 29 attempts, while committing just one error. Hellmann paced the Falcons with 30 assists, while freshman Josalynn Wise added 16. Air Force also accounted for five service aces, including two from Kurtz. Spencer, Wise and Perich also scored from the line for the Falcons.
Freshman Caitie Campbell had a strong defensive debut, accounting for six total blocks, including a pair of solo stops. Campbell was one of three Falcons to record six blocks, joining senior Julia Hansen (one solo, five assisted) and Stilwell (six assisted).
Air Force returns to action tomorrow (Aug. 28) for the second day of action at the 2010 Falcon Invitational. The Falcons will face South Dakota State at 1 p.m., before taking on Boise State at 7 p.m.