USAF ACADEMY, Colo. – The Air Force volleyball team closed out the first weekend of conference play with a tough 3-2 loss to San Jose State at the Academy on Saturday, Sept. 23. In a back-and-forth contest that featured numerous runs and 24 ties, the Falcons suffered a 21-25, 25-23, 20-25, 25-23, 7-15 loss to the visiting Spartans.
Junior Abigail Miksch paced all players with 19 kills, while senior Piper Heineck added 15 scores on a match-high .444 hitting (15-3-27). Junior Shanleigh Conlan tallied a team leading 12 digs and 32 assists for her fourth double-double of the year, while freshman Alex King and sophomore Denise Ssozi added double figures in digs (11 each) and junior Sarah Hellman collected a double-digit total in assists (11). Hellman also accounted for a team-best three service aces, while freshman Kathleen Medill registered six blocks (all assisted).
Heineck opened the match with a kill and added another score to give the Falcons an early 2-1 lead. San Jose State scored the next three points, before Miksch put down a kill to bring Air Force within one (3-4). The Spartans jumped out to an 11-5 advantage, but the Falcons responded with their own 8-1 run to take the 15-14 lead. Miksch registered three kills during the run, while Hellman posted back-to-back aces. Another kill from Miksch kept the score tied at 16, before San Jose State scored five of the next six points to take a four-point lead. Heineck (two) and freshman Alex King (one) combined for three straight kills that cut Air Force’s deficit to one (20-21) and junior Lauren Heldt added one more score, but San Jose State took the opening set by a 25-21 margin.
The second set was a back-and-forth affair, with ties at every point between two and 10-all. i (ace) and Miksch (kill) put down a pair of points that gave Air Force a 12-10 lead, but San Jose State responded with four straight points to go up by two (12-14). The Falcons evened the score at 15 following a kill from Miksch and a block from Conlan and Medill. San Jose State responded with the next points to go up by three (16-19), before a pair of kills from Heineck and a score from Miksch helped tie the score at 22-all. Air Force took the lead on the ensuing play with a block from Miksch and Medill, while kills from Miksch and junior Denise Ssozi helped Air Force even the match with a 25-23 set win.
Freshman Cambria Galloway put down the Falcons’ first point of the third set, but San Jose State jumped out to an 8-1 lead that forced Air Force into an early timeout. Hellman notched her third ace of the match, as the Spartans doubled up the Falcons by 14-7 margin. Conlan put down a kill to stop the run and spark a 10-3 run that helped the Falcons tie the set at 17. Heineck and Ssozi combined for seven of the Falcons’ scores during that run, as Heineck collected three kills, two blocks and one ace, while Ssozi assisted on one of Heineck’s blocks and tallied a kill. San Jose State responded with the next six points, before Miksch stopped their run with back-to-back kills. Ssozi added one more point, but the Spartans claimed the five-point win (25-20).
While the third set started with a run by the Spartans, the fourth set opened with a 6-1 run by the Falcons. Heineck tallied a pair of kills and two blocks (one solo, one assisted with Ssozi) during the run, while Conlan recorded an ace and Galloway added a kill. San Jose State pulled within one (7-6), before Medill tallied a pair of score (one kill, one assisted block) to give the Falcons a four-point advantage (11-7). The Spartans evened the set at 11, before Miksch (two kills) and Medill (one kill, one assisted block) pushed the Falcons’ lead back to four (15-11). The teams traded the next six points, with Heineck putting down a pair of kills to keep the Falcons advantage at four (17-13, 18-14). San Jose State evened the set at 18, before Miksch and Medill tallied kills on back-to-back plays (20-18). The score was tied at 20 two play later, before Galloway and Ssozi returned the Falcons’ lead to two (22-20). The squad traded the next six points, with Miksch (23-21) and Ssozi (24-22, 25-23) securing the Air Force win.
The run to open the deciding set belonged to the Spartans, who took the early 8-2 lead. Miksch posted a pair of kills and served up an ace, but San Jose State took the final set by a 15-7 margin.
The Falcons continue their homestand next week, when they host conference foes from Wyoming and Colorado State at Cadet East Gym. Air Force will host the Cowgirls at 6:30 p.m., on Thursday, Sept. 28, before welcoming the nationally-ranked Rams at 1:00 p.m., on Saturday, Sept. 30.