Falcons Defeat Thunderbirds in Five-Set Thriller
Sept. 5, 2009
DENVER, Colo. - The Air Force volleyball team defeated Southern Utah, 3-2, during its first match of the day at the Denver Invitational on Saturday, Sept. 5. After dropping the first set 25-19, the Falcons took the next two sets 25-17 and 25-23. The Thunderbirds evened the series at four with a 25-22 win, but Air Force prevailed, using a stellar .571 hitting percentage in the final set to take the 15-8 decision.
Southern Utah tallied the first point, but freshman Grace Konstanzer quickly evened the score. Senior Michelle Harrington and junior Nichole Stilwell added several kills, but SUU doubled up the Falcons' score at 14-7. Harrington and Konstanzer added kills, while a strike by junior Caroline Kurtz helped Air Force cross the 10-point plateau. Stilwell sparked a four-point Air Force run, tallying a pair of kills and assisting on a block with classmate Julia Hansen. Southern Utah scored five of the final seven points to take the first set by a 25-19 margin.
Highlighted by a kill from junior Emily Frick, the Falcons took an early 3-0 lead in the second set. Southern Utah took the next four points, but Air Force responded with eight straight points to regain the advantage. During the run, Harrington recorded a kill and assisted on a pair of blocks, while Frick scored a kill and freshman Maiya Perich recorded a service ace. SUU used a short scoring streak to pull within three (11-8), but Air Force took eight of the next 10 points to take a commanding advantage. Harrington, Hansen and junior Jessica Hellmann added kills, while junior Kelly Spencer made a diving dig to send the ball back across the court for an Air Force point. Harrington and Kurtz added a trio of kills, as the Falcons took the second set by a 25-17 margin.
Frick and Harrington got the scoring started for Air Force in the third set, combining for all five of the Falcons' points. A service ace by Konstanzer gave the Falcons its first lead and a pair of back-to-back kills from Kurtz put Air Force up by two (8-6) The two teams traded scores, as Kurtz and Frick provided an offensive spark for the Falcons. The Thunderbirds took a three-point lead late in the set (19-16), but Kurtz responded with a kill and back-to-back aces to tie the set at 20. Two SUU errors and kills by Harrington, Kurtz and Frick gave the Falcons the 25-23 victory.
Kurtz tallied the first point of the fourth set, but Southern Utah responded with four straight scores to take the early lead. Down three, Air Force came out of a time out and embarked on an 8-4 run to go up by two. Stilwell was the primary force during that run, tallied three consecutive points for the Falcons. The Thunderbirds retook the lead at 16-12 and went up by five at the 20-15 mark. Frick recorded her first solo block and Stilwell and Kurtz recorded kills, as Air Force used a late 5-1 run to bring the score within two at 23-21. Southern Utah ultimately went on to even the match with a 25-22 win.
The deciding set started with Southern Utah taking the early 3-1 lead, before Frick and Kurtz combined for five kills and paced the squad to a 7-5 lead. A kill by Hellmann sent the Falcons to the midway point with an 8-6 lead. Backed by a pair of blocks (Hellmann/Kurtz and Harrington/Hansen), the Falcons completed the comeback with a 15-8 win.
Kurtz led all players with 16 kills and 19 digs, while Stilwell connected on nine of 20 attempts (no errors) to record a .450 hitting percentage. Frick (12) and Harrington (10) also posted double-digit kills, while Spencer (13) and Perich (11) surpassed the 10-dig mark. Kurtz collected a pair of service aces, while Konstanzer and Perich each added one.
As a team, the Falcons accounted for 16 assisted blocks, including a match-high six from Harrington. Hansen added three, while Stilwell, Kurtz and Hellmann each recorded a pair. Frick, who earned the Falcons' only solo stop, also recorded an assisted block.
Air Force concludes the 2009 Denver Invitational this evening, when it faces Eastern Illinois at 5 p.m.