Air Force Drops 3-0 Decision to Eastern Illinois
Sept. 5, 2009
DENVER, Colo. - The Air Force volleyball team dropped a heartbreaking 3-0 decision to Eastern Illinois in the final match of the 2009 Denver Invitational on Saturday (Sept. 5) evening in Denver, Colo. The Falcons, who made a furious rally attempt in the waning minutes of the first set and nearly took the third set, fell by close 25-22, 25-20, 26-24 scores.
The first set, which ultimately went to the Panthers, featured a furious rally by the Falcons, as they held EIU at set-point for five straight points. Air Force took an early 7-3 lead in the set, behind kills from juniors Emily Frick and Caroline Kurtz, as well as a kill and assisted block from senior Michelle Harrington (junior Jessica Hellmann assisted on the stop). Eastern Illinois cut the lead to two, but Air Force regained the four-point advantage backed by kills from Harrington, Kurtz and junior Kelly Spencer as well an ace from Hellmann. Eastern Illinois used a 9-0 run to take a 16-11 lead. Hellmann and classmate Nichole Stilwell teamed up for a block to stop the scoring, but EIU eventually pulled within set-point at 24-17. The Falcons held the Panthers at 24, while rolling out five straight points, including a pair of kills from freshman Grace Konstanzer. Stilwell and freshman Maile Lolohea added kills, while Kurtz recorded a service ace. However, despite the comeback, Air Force fell 25-22.
The two teams traded points to start the second match, Air Force taking a 3-2 lead off of a service ace by Spencer. An ace by Hellmann gave the Falcons a two-point lead - the largest advantage by either team in the set - before EIU rebounded with four straight scores to go up 13-11. The Falcons tied the score at 15 off of a huge solo block by Harrington, which was the result of a diving save from Kurtz. A kill by Harrington tied the set at 16, but the Panthers took the set by a 25-20 margin.
Air Force jumped out to a 5-1 lead to start the third set, highlighted by an ace from Konstanzer and a solo stop by Harrington. Air Force took an eight-point lead at 14-6, behind kills from Kurtz and Frick, while Stilwell collected a kill and teamed with Lolohea for a block. The lead increased to eight, but Eastern Illinois responded with a 10-0 run to start a wild finish. Down 21-19, Air Force scored the next five points to reach set-point. Kurtz and Stilwell combined for three kills, while Lolohea and Hellmann registered an assisted block during the run. Unfortunately, the scoring swing switched back to Eastern Illinois, as the Panthers used a 5-0 run to sneak the 26-24 victory away from the Falcons.
Kurtz paced the Falcons with 13 kills and a team-best .286 hitting percentage. Spencer and Hellmann each tallied 10 digs, while Hellmann also accounted for 28 assists, a team-high two service aces and four blocks. Harrington also recorded four aces, three of which came from unassisted stops.
The Falcons close out the `tournament' season next weekend, as they travel to Conway, Ark., for the Sugar Bear Classic, hosted by Central Arkansas, on Sept. 11-12.