Sept. 10, 2010
MEMPHIS, Tenn. - Backed by several season-best statistics, the Air Force volleyball team swept La Salle 3-0 during the opening match of the Memphis Invitational on Friday, Sept. 10, in Memphis, Tenn. Air Force, which snapped a five-match losing streak with the victory, downed the Explorers in straight 25-16, 25-8, 25-19 sets.
Air Force, which defeated La Salle for the second straight year, has never lost to the Explorers.
Senior Caroline Kurtz led all players with 12 kills and four service aces. She also tied with teammate Kelly Spencer for the team lead in digs with nine. Fellow senior Jessica Hellmann accounted for 23 assists, while senior Julia Hansen, classmate Nichole Stilwell and freshman Annalyse Schmitt tied for the team-lead in digs with three. Schmitt paced the team with a .280 hitting percentage, connecting on eight of 25 attempts, while committing just one error.
As a squad, Air Force accounted for eight service aces. It was the single-highest output of the season, breaking the previous high of seven, which was set during a four-set match. Kurtz paced the squad with four aces, while Hellmann collected a pair. Senior Jacqueline Norton recorded her first career ace, while sophomore Maiya Perich added one.
Recording a season-best hitting percentage of .215, the Falcons connected on 31 of 93 attempts, committing just 11 errors.
Air Force rolled out to an early 5-1 lead, behind a pair of kills from Kurtz. La Salle pulled within one at 8-7, but freshman Caitie Campbell, Schmitt and Stilwell put down scores to help the squad regain a sizeable lead. Air Force increased its lead to 15-10 with another pair of strikes from Kurtz. With the lead at 18-14, Air Force closed out the game on a 7-2 run. After a pair of back-to-back blocks, Air Force collected kills from Stilwell and Schmitt to win the set by a 25-16 score.
The Falcons again jumped out to an early lead behind kills from Schmitt and Kurtz. Hellmann recorded the day's first service ace to bolster the score to 9-3. A serve into the net by the Explorers increased the Falcons' lead to six (10-4) and put Kurtz at the serving line. Eight plays later the Falcons held an 18-4 margin of victory. During Kurtz' serving streak, she tallied a pair of aces, while Schmitt and Campbell accounted for kills. Air Force also shined defensively during that run with three straight blocks, including solo stops by Hansen and Schmitt. A solo stop by Hellmann put the Falcons at set-point and Air Force easily took the second set by a 25-8 margin.
The third set saw the Falcons start off with a unique two-point lead, due to a delay-of-game penalty assessed to the Explorers. La Salle tied the set at three and took the lead on the next point - marking the first time in the match that Air Force had trailed. The Falcons regained the lead behind a kill from Campbell and a service ace from Hellmann. The two squads battled back and forth, until head coach Matt McShane called a timeout with the Falcons down, 12-9. Following the timeout, Air Force scored seven of the next nine points to go up 16-14. Norton recorded her first-ever ace, while Stilwell recorded a pair of kills, including a quick tip that caught La Salle's entire front line off guard. The Explorers once again tied the set at 16, but Kurtz caught fire, tallying kills on four straight attempts. Kurtz added a final service ace to lead the Falcons' to a 25-19 victory.
The win was the first three-set sweep of McShane's tenure.
Air Force continues action at the Memphis Invitational tomorrow (Saturday, Sept. 11) with a pair of matches at the Elma Roane Fieldhouse. The Falcons will face Tennessee State at 10 a.m., before taking on host Memphis at 7 p.m.