Nov. 27, 2013
USAF ACADEMY, Colo. - The Air Force volleyball team made a statement during its return to the Academy on Wednesday, Nov. 27, completing a straight-set victory over Fresno State. The Falcons earned their second sweep of the Mountain West season with a 25-23, 25-22, 25-20 win over the Bulldogs, who entered the match ranked fifth in the conference.
Senior Cami Richan and sophomore Akokwe Clement paced the Falcons with 12 kills apiece ... two of the five Falcons hit over .220 for the match. Richan posted a team-leading average of .400 (12k-4e-20a), while junior Ayesha Hein hit at a clip of .368 (7k-0e-19a). Junior Hillary Keltner (.273, 6k-3e-11a), sophomore Taylor Parker (.231, 5k-2e-13a) and sophomore Maggie Sherrill (.222, 6k-2e-18a) also hit over .220, as the team combined for a .265 hitting percentage.
Keltner accounted for 34 of the team's 49 kills, while Air Force earned service aces from Richan, junior Emma Dridge and sophomore Rachael Bradley Powers. Air Force also earned a pair of blocks (all assisted) from Hein, Parker and Clement, while Bradley Powers paced all players with 11 digs.
"Kudos to our back row," head coach Matt McShane said. "They've been getting beat up a lot lately, but they did a great job tonight. I thought our serving and passing was great ... we've been struggling, but we got home and it was much better."
Five Falcons helped Air Force jump out to a quick 5-2 lead, as Sherrill (two), Richan and Hein put down kills and Clement and Parker teamed up for a block. Fresno State responded with five of the next six points to go up 7-6, but Clement put down three kills and Richan added an ace during a 4-0 run that allowed Air Force to retake the lead (10-7). The Bulldogs closed the gap, eventually tying the set at 13, before Parker and Richan added kills that improved the Falcons' lead to four (18-14). Clement and Parker teamed up for another block, while Clement added another pair of kills. A strike by Keltner brought Air Force to set point (24-20) and, despite a 3-0 run by Fresno State to pull within one, Sherrill put down the final point for the Falcons' 25-23 victory.
Air Force got off to another fast start in the second set, quickly doubling up the Bulldogs (10-5) behind an ace from Dridge and kills from Sherrill, Richan (two), Taylor, Hein and Clement. Fresno State cut the gap to one (12-11), but Richan put down back-to-back scores and added another two points later to bring the Falcons' lead back to two (16-14). The score tied at 17 and again at 18, but a 4-0 run by Air Force - capped by a deep corner kill by Bradley Powers - gave the Falcons a 22-19 advantage. Hein, Keltner and Richan each put down one additional kill, as Air Force secured the 25-22 win.
Although Keltner struck first in the third, the two squads traded points, accounting for seven ties in the first 14 points. Following a two-point lead by the Falcons (9-7) and the responding two points by the Bulldogs, the scores evened up three more times (11-all). Richan and Hein paced a run that pushed the Falcons' advantage to three (14-11), while Sherrill, Keltner and Clement put down kills that allowed Air Force to reach the 20-point plateau (20-17). Kills by Richan and Clement, as well as an ace by Bradley Powers, brought the Falcons within one (24-18) and Clement put down the final kill to give Air Force the 25-20 win.
The Falcons, who hadn't swept a conference opponent during the past nine seasons have now accomplished two 3-0 victories this year (Nevada, Oct. 24; Fresno State, Nov. 27).
"Overall, that was a great match for us," McShane continued. "There were a few things that we wanted to do against (Fresno State) and we did them well all the time. Ayesha was great. Cami hit .400. Akokwe's .129 (hitting percentage) does not show how good she was tonight ... she really did a nice job. All of our hitters did great and Hillary did a great job of moving it around."
The Falcons close out the season on Friday, Nov. 29, when they host San Jose State at 6 p.m. Prior to the match, Air Force will honor Hein, Richan and Josalynn Wise, who will be playing in their final collegiate match.