Air Force Snaps Conference Losing Streak with Dramatic Performance
Oct. 21, 2010
USAF ACADEMY, Colo. - Backed by a stellar all-around performance, the Air Force volleyball team snapped its 74-match losing streak in Mountain West Conference action with a solid 3-1 victory over San Diego State on Thursday, Oct. 21, at the Academy's Falcon Court at East Gym. The Falcons tallied season-best marks in several categories to take three of four sets by matching 25-23 scores.
The win snapped a conference losing streak for the Falcons that dated back to 2005. Tonight's match marked the seniors first-ever win against a Mountain West Conference school. It is also the Falcons' first win against the Aztecs since 1999 and only their second in the series.
"It feels awesome," head coach Matt McShane said after the match. "We knew we were going to win a match. Maybe not when, but we knew we were going to win one soon. I am so proud of the seniors. They have been working so hard and waiting for this moment."
It was a total team effort, as the Falcons tallied season-best marks in hitting percentage (.248), kills (59) and assists (56). Backed by strong hitting in the first (.438 - 16k-2e-32a) and third (.355 - 16k-5e-31a), tonight's hitting percentage was nearly 30 points higher than the previous best outing (.218) against Bryant. Individually, six Falcons hit.250 or higher for the match, including a .400 (2-0-5) average for senior Jessica Hellmann and a .286 (24-8-56) mark for classmate Caroline Kurtz.
Kurtz had a career performance with 24 kills, while adding 13 digs for her 20th career double-double. Freshman Annalyse Schmitt and senior Nichole Stilwell added kill totals of 18 and 10, respectively. Schmitt, who set a new career tally with those 18 kills, also accounted for two of the team's three service aces, while Stilwell and freshman Cami Richan paced the team with two blocks each. Senior Jessica Hellmann collected a season-best 50 assists, while adding 13 digs for her fourth career double-double. Senior Kelly Spencer led the team with 16 digs.
"(The coaches) knew we were good enough to win," McShane continued. "We just had to get the players to believe that they could win. They had to get the confidence to know they can win. San Diego State is a great team, we went in with a game plan and it all came together."
Kurtz put down the first point of the match, before San Diego State tallied the next three to take an early lead. Despite kills from Hellmann, Stilwell, Schmitt and Kurtz, the Falcons trailed by four (15-11) heading into the first timeout. Down 19-13, Schmitt scored five of the Falcons' next six points (four kills, one service aces) as Air Force closed the gap to two at 21-19. Following a timeout by the Aztecs, Spencer put down a kill and another strike by Stilwell helped keep the score within two at 23-21. Hellmann's kill tied the set at 23 and a service ace by Spencer helped the Falcons secure a 25-23 win.
San Diego State used a long scoring streak to jump out to an early 11-4 lead on Air Force in the second set, despite kills from Schmitt and senior Julia Hansen. Schmitt added four more kills, while Stilwell, Kurtz and Hansen each tallied one, but the Aztecs evened the match with a 25-16 win.
Air Force took the early 4-1 lead to start the third set, behind a trio of kills from Kurtz and Stilwell. Air Force continued to lead, as the squads traded points. Kurtz, Richan, Schmitt and Stilwell helped Air Force reach the 10-point mark first (10-8), although the Aztecs quickly evened the score. Kurtz put down another pair of kills, but SDSU ultimately took the lead at 15-14. Schmitt put down kills that tied the set at 15 and again at 16, while her ace evened the set at 18. A kill by Kurtz matched the score at 20, while her next strike gave the Falcons a one-point lead at 22-21. With the score tied at 23, Air Force benefited from a San Diego State error and a kill by Schmitt to take the set by a 25-23 margin.
The Falcons, who hadn't played a fourth set in conference action since facing the Aztecs at the end of last season, jumped out to a 3-0 lead behind three consecutive kills by Kurtz. San Diego State responded to even the score, but Stilwell stopped their run with a kill. Kurtz tied the score at five, but the Aztecs took a 12-9 lead. Kurtz once again put down three straight kills, helping the Falcons to even the score at 13. Attacking errors by SDSU allowed the Falcons to increase their lead to 17-14. Hansen and Schmitt added kills, but San Diego State tied the set at 20 and took the lead at 22-20. Back-to-back kills by Schmitt put the Falcons at match-point and a driving kill by Stilwell secured Air Force the 25-23 win and its first Mountain West Conference victory since Nov. 7, 2005.
The Falcons open the second half of Mountain West Conference action next Friday (Oct. 29), when they host TCU at 7 p.m. Air Force will remain at home on Sunday (Oct. 31) for a Halloween-themed match with New Mexico at 4 p.m. Sunday's match will be televised live on CBS-College Sports.