Air Force Holds Off Louisiana Tech with Fifth-Set Rally
Sept. 11, 2009
CONWAY, Ark. - The Air Force volleyball team picked up an exciting five-set victory over Louisiana Tech on Friday, Sept. 11, in its first match at the Sugar Bear Classic in Conway, Ark. After dropping the first set by a narrow 25-23 margin, the Falcons rebounded for 25-18, 25-21 victories. Louisiana Tech tied the match with a 25-21 win in fourth, but Air Force rallied for a thrilling 19-17 victory in the final set.
With the win, the Falcons improved to 6-3 on the season. In just nine matches, Air Force has already surpassed its win total of 2008.
Despite taking two of the first three points, Air Force found itself in an early 9-4 hole. The Falcons got back into the set, as a service ace by junior Jessica Hellmann brought the score to within two. Tech regained a five-point advantage, but Air Force continued to fight. Senior Michelle Harrington joined juniors Nichole Stilwell, Emily Frick, Julia Hansen and Caroline Kurtz to produce a string of kills that tied the set at 18. Air Force took a 20-18 lead, but Tech used a 7-3 run to take the narrow 25-23 victory.
Tech jumped on the Falcons early in the second set, scoring seven of the first 10 points. Air Force quickly responded and reversed the advantage to 11-9. Five different Falcons recorded kills during the stretch, including three by Kurtz, while freshman Grace Konstanzer recorded a service ace. The Falcons maintained the lead, thanks to kills from Harrington and Stilwell and a block by Harrington and Hansen. Tech tied the set at 16 and took the lead on the ensuing point. A kill by Kurtz tied the set at 18 and sparked an 8-0 run by the Falcons to close out the set by a 25-18 score. Kurtz added an additional kill during the run, while Stilwell added a kill and assisted with Hellmann on a pair of blocks.
The two teams traded points in the third set, as Air Force pulled out to a 9-6 lead. Stilwell accounted for four blocks in the opening segment, including a solo stop. Air Force maintained the lead with kills from Harrington, Stilwell and Kurtz. For the second straight set, Louisiana Tech tied the set at 18, but Air Force rolled off four straight points to retake the advantage. Kurtz recorded the final kill of the set, as Air Force took the set by a score of 25-21.
Air Force took an early 4-1 lead in the fourth set, backed by an ace from junior Kelly Spencer. Kills from Frick, Hellmann, Kurtz and Stilwell helped bolster the Falcons' lead to 13-7, but Tech used a 13-3 run to take the late lead. Hansen and Harrington added kills as Air Force cut it deficit to two, but Louisiana Tech took the 25-21 victory to even the series.
Despite kills from Kurtz, Stilwell and freshman Maile Lolohea, Tech pulled out to the early lead, doubling up the Falcons at the 12-6 mark. Air Force pulled within one, behind a pair of kills by both Stilwell and Kurtz. With Louisiana Tech at match-point, Kurtz and Konstanzer added kills to tie the set at 14. Tech retook the lead (15-14), but the Falcons responded with a pair of points (16-15). Neither team was willing to sacrifice the deciding point, as the teams continued to trade points. Konstanzer added another kill, while Harrington and Hellmann teamed up for the final block and the 19-17 win.
Blocking provided the winning spark for the Falcons, as the squad accounted for three solo and 24 assisted stops. Harrington and Stilwell each recorded seven blocks (one solo, six assisted), while Hellmann added four (one solo, three assisted).
One of three Falcons to record double-digit kill totals, Kurtz led all players with 19 kills. Harrington added 16, while Stilwell posted 15. Harrington also amassed the team's best hitting percentage (.469), connecting on 16 of 32 attempts and just one error. Hellmann totaled a season-best 56 helpers, while adding 12 digs for her second double-double of the season. Spencer tied for the match-lead with 21 digs, while Kurtz added 15. Kurtz's kills/digs combination marked her fifth double-double in nine matches.
Air Force returns to action tonight, when it faces tournament host Central Arkansas at 6 p.m., at the Prince Center in Conway, Ark.