FRESNO, Calif. – The Air Force volleyball team claimed a thrilling five-set victory over Fresno State this evening (Oct. 5) at the Save Mart Center – marking the first time in program history that the Falcons have earned a “W” in Fresno. After dropping the opening set by a 15-25 margin, the Falcons claimed three of the next four sets for the 26-24, 19-25, 25-15, 15-13 victory and their first MW win of the year.
“Obviously, it’s great to win a conference game,” head coach Marc Swindle said. “It’s great to win one on the road. We learned some things against Colorado State last Saturday, which we brought here. I’m super proud of Piper’s performance and Andi, who stepped up when Shanleigh got sick. We had four-or-five freshmen on the floor frequently, and, although they make some freshman mistakes ... man, they play with heart. We served great, and how about Jordan? I don’t know how many points she scored, serving, but that was huge and monumental.”
Junior Abigail Miksch tallied a match-high 20 kills, while senior Piper Heineck added 14 on .500 hitting (14k-3e-22a) and junior Denise Ssozi tied for the team-lead with two service aces. The rest of the Falcons’ statistical leaders came from the freshmen class, as Andi Ahlers tallied 34 assists and two aces, Alex King earned 14 digs and Kathleen Medill accounted for six blocks (one solo, five assisted). As a team, Air Force produced a .219 hitting percentage – its best outing of the conference season.
Air Force and Fresno State traded the first six points of the match, with Medill and Miksch tallying kills for the Falcons (3-3). The Falcons took a two-point lead (5-3) off of back-to-back blocks from Medill/freshman Cambria Galloway and Heineck/Ssozi. The Bulldogs scored 11 of the next 13 points to double up the Falcons by a 14-7 margin. Fresno State extended its advantage to 11 (21-10), before Ssozi put down a kill that sparked a 5-1 run by the Falcons. Ssozi added a second kill during the run, while Heineck registered a kill and assisted on a block with junior Lauren Heldt. Fresno State scored the final three points for the 25-15 win.
Miksch put down the Falcons’ first point (1-2), while a score by Medill helped the Falcons even the set at four. The two squads traded the next several points, with Ssozi (6), Miksch (7) and Galloway (9) providing the tying scores. The Falcons gained a three-point advantage (14-11), following kills from Miksch and Ahlers, as well as a block from Ssozi and Heineck. Fresno State responded with five of the next six points to retake the lead (16-15), before back-to-back points from Heineck (kill) and Ssozi (ace) gave Air Force the 17-16 advantage. Fresno State tallied the next two points to retake the lead, but a two-point swing by Air Force (kills from Miksch and Medill) returned the lead to the Falcons (19-18). Miksch and Ssozi added kills as the squads traded the next six points, but back-to-back points from Fresno State evened the set at 24. A pair of kills from Galloway secured the 26-24 victory for the Falcons, as Air Force evened the match at one set apiece.
Air Force took an early 3-2 lead, as Miksch put down a kill and assisted on a block with Medill. Ssozi registered equalizing kills (4-4, 5-5), while Heineck (6) Galloway (9) and Miksch (10) added kills that kept the score tied. The Bulldogs tallied the next six points to take a 16-10 lead, before Medill served an ace to stop the run. Heineck added two kills, but Fresno State pushed its lead to seven (22-15). Miksch added two scores, while Heldt and Medill teamed up for a block, but the Bulldogs took the 25-19 win.
After giving up the first point of the fourth set, Air Force scored six of the next seven to take an early 6-2 lead that forced Fresno State into a timeout. Miksch registered two kills during the run, while Galloway (kill) and Ahlers (ace) each added a score. Medill and Galloway combined for the Falcons’ next three points, as the pair each recorded a kill and teamed up for block, to help Air Force extend its lead to six (9-3). Heineck added three kills, but the Bulldogs cut the Falcons’ lead to three (15-12). Air Force responded with kills from Heineck and Heldt, as well as a block from Miksch and Medill, to retake a six-point margin (18-12). Holding a four-point advantage at the 19-15 mark, the Falcons scored the final six points behind strong serving for from freshman Jordan Daniels. Medill, Heineck, Galloway and Ssozi put down kills during the Falcons’ 6-0 run, while Daniels secured the 25-15 victory with a service ace.
Fresno State jumped out to an early 4-0 lead to start the deciding set, before the Falcons responded with the next five points. Miksch tallied Air Force’s first point of the run, while a Medill/Heldt block and three Fresno State attacking errors contributed to the Falcons’ 5-4 lead. The Bulldogs evened the set on the next point, but Air Force responded with a kill from Miksch and another ace from Ahlers. Fresno State tied the eight, before a service ace from King helped put the Falcons back on top by two (10-8). The Bulldogs scored five of the next seven points to take a 13-12 advantage, but kills from Miksch book-ended three-straight points from the Falcons, as Air Force secured the 15-13 decision and match victory.
Air Force continues its conference road trip to California on Saturday (Oct. 7), when it travels to San Diego to face the Aztecs at 6:00 p.m. (PT).