Falcons Fall to Northern Colorado in Four
Aug. 30, 2011
USAF ACADEMY, Colo. - Cami Richan, Claire Bieber and Ayesha Hein combined for 36 kills, as the Air Force volleyball team dropped a 3-1 decision to Northern Colorado in its home opener on Tuesday, Aug. 30, at the Academy's Falcon Court at East Gym. The Falcons claimed their first set win over the Bears since 2004 with a 25-21 win in the opening set, before falling 25-27, 25-20, 25-21.
Air Force fell to 1-3 on the short season, while Northern Colorado evened its record to 2-2.
Richan led the Falcons with 16 kills, while Bieber and Hein each added 10. Richan, who posted the squad's first double-double of the season with 10 digs, tied with Hein and freshman Hillary Keltner for a team-best two blocks. Keltner led the team with 21 assists, while sophomore Josalynn Wise, who posted a career- and match-best four service aces, added 18 helpers. In addition to Richan's 10 digs, junior Maiya Perich led the team with 18 and freshman Emma Dridge added 12.
"We were significantly better," head coach Matt McShane said following the match. "We're still learning, but I think that we're much further along than would be expected (with a team so young). I'm very encouraged. We still have a couple weeks left of preseason tournaments."
Air Force started off strong, as Hein put down a kill for the opening point. The Falcons moved out to 5-2, with another kill from Hein and the first from Bieber. Hein added a service ace and Richan tallied back-to-back kills to five the Falcons a 9-4 advantage and force UNC to call its first timeout. Freshman Lizzy Carpenter collected a kill, as Air Force moved out to a 12-7 lead. The Bears pulled within two at 14-12, but Richan, Keltner and Hein posted three straight points to help Air Force regain a five-point lead (17-12). Northern Colorado could get no closer than two points, including a point at the 23-21 mark. Keltner set Hein and Richan for the final two points, as Air Force collected its first set win over the Bears since the 2004 season with a 25-21 mark.
The Falcons home opener featured an enthusiastic crowd of 851 - the eighth-highest total in Academy history. "The crowd was awesome," McShane continued. "I'm so happy to coach here and have this support."
Hein again struck first in the second set and the two squads traded points, tying at each point to 10. The Bears took a two-point lead, but a block from Richan and Carpenter helped even the score at 12. Despite kills from Carpenter and Bieber, Northern Colorado slowly pulled away from Air Force to take the set by a 25-17 score.
The third set started much like the second, with the teams trading scores. Northern Colorado finally slipped out to a 12-8 lead, but a service ace from freshman Brooke Pottle helped even the score at 13. Bieber and Richan accounted for six kills in the final minutes, before UNC took the 25-20 set.
For the third time in four sets, Hein put down a kill for the opening point. Richan added kills that tied the set at three and again at five. Her second kill sparked a 3-0 Air Force run that included another service ace from Wise. Northern Colorado evened the set at 12, but the Richan (two kills), Wise (service ace) and Carpenter (kill) helped the Falcons regain a 16-13 advantage. The Bears closed the gap at 16 and took the lead at the 19-18 mark. A kill from Hein tied the set at 21, but Northern Colorado claimed the final four points to take the 25-21 set.
"They are here to be Air Force officers," McShane said, also commenting on how the lineup continues to change, as the players push one another in practice. "They are up late studying and still work extremely hard in the gym. They just compete and are always so enthusiastic. I'm really proud of them."
Air Force continues its busy week, as it travels up Interstate-25 to compete in the Denver Invitational. The Falcons will face Denver on Thursday, Sept. 1, before taking on Bryant and 13th-ranked Purdue on Friday, Sept. 2.