Air Force Claims First Conference Sweep Since 2003
Oct. 24, 2013
USAF ACADEMY, Colo. - Recording its second-highest hitting percentage in a conference match over the last decade, the Air Force volleyball team easily swept Nevada on Thursday, Oct. 24. Hitting at a clip of .341, the Falcons downed the visiting Wolfpack in straight 25-20, 25-12, 25-16 sets. The 3-0 victory is the program's first sweep of a conference opponent since the 2003 season.
Air Force, which combined for 41 kills on 82 attempts and just 13 errors, were backed by two players that hit over .500 for the match. Sophomore Maggie Sherrill paced all players with 13 kills and an average of .545 (13k-1e-22a), while junior Ayesha Hein hit .538 on eight kills, one error and 13 swings. Sophomore Akokwe Clement also had a strong night, accounting for 10 kills and a .368 average.
Junior Hillary Keltner accounted for 32 of the team's 39 assists, while Hein (two assisted) and sophomore Taylor Parker (one solo, one assisted) each collected a pair of blocks. Fellow sophomore, Rachael Bradley Powers, earning the nod at the libero position, led the team with 11 digs and added a pair of service aces.
Nevada claimed the opening point, but Air Force quickly responded with a pair of kills from Hein and freshman Collette Foster. A pair of strikes from Clement saw Air Force double up Nevada at the 6-3 mark. Sherrill scored three of the Falcons' next four points, while Foster and Clement teamed up for back-to-back scores that put Air Force up 13-7. Hein, Sherrill and Keltner each added another kills, while an error by the Wolfpack put the Falcons at 20 (20-12). Nevada used a 5-1 run to cut the Falcons' advantage to four (21-17), but Bradley Powers served up a pair of aces to stop their run. Nevada added a three more points, but Clement put down a kill to secure the 25-20 win for Air Force.
Kills from Clement (three) and Hein (two) accounted for five of the Falcons' first six points, as Nevada kept the score within one at 6-5. The second strike by Hein sparked a 6-0 run from the Falcons that included two kills from Sherrill, one from Parker and an assisted block by the two sophomores. Air Force continued to roll, using a pair of scores from Sherrill, Clement and Hein, as well as Sherrill's first career service ace, to take the easy 25-12 win.
The third set followed the mold of the first two, as Nevada struck first and Air Force quickly responded. Foster and Hein put down kills during an early 5-1 run by the Falcons that saw the home team take a 6-3 lead. Air Force relinquished just two points during another scoring streak that featured three kills from Foster (one) and Sherrill (two) and ended with the Falcons holding a 15-5 advantage. Parker put down a pair of scores, while Foster and Hein teamed up for a block to put the score at 21-11. The Wolfpack tallied four of the next five points, but a kill from Clement that snaked along the top of the net before falling onto Nevada's side of the net, secured the Falcons' sweep with a 25-16 win.
"Winning is better than losing," head coach Matt McShane said after the match. "We worked really hard this week. We've been hitting for a high percentage against everybody lately, but, unfortunately, everyone has been hitting at a higher percentage against us. This week, we really made an effort to work on blocking and defense and it obviously paid off. When you hit .341 and your opponents hit .055, you're going to win a bunch of matches. Our outside hitters ... wow, Maggie and Akokwe hit scary numbers. Hillary did a really good job of spreading out the offense and giving everybody the chance to swing. They've worked so incredibly hard and to get this win ... they deserved it."
With their only match of the week in the books, the Falcons are off until next week, when they travel to San Diego State on Thursday (Oct. 31) and UNLV on Saturday (Nov. 2) to begin the second half of the Mountain West season.