Falcons Head North to Denver Invitational

    Jessica Hellmann
    Jessica Hellmann

    Sept. 1, 2009

    Fresh off its best start to a season in 10 years, the Air Force volleyball team travels up Interstate-25 for the Denver Invitational on Friday-Saturday (Sept. 4-5). The Falcons will face local host Denver, in addition to West Virginia, Southern Utah and Eastern Illinois. All matches will be played at Hamilton Gym on the campus of the University of Denver. Live stats will be available for each match.

    Match Notes 02: Air Force at Denver Invitational Get Acrobat Reader

    Air Force opens the invitational on Friday, Sept. 4, against host team Denver at 1 p.m. The Falcons will also play West Virginia (5 p.m.) during the first day of action. On Saturday, Sept. 5, Air Force will face Southern Utah at 11 a.m., before returning to the court at 5 p.m., to conclude tournament play against Eastern Illinois.

    HISTORY 101
    The Falcons hold winning records against the three of this weekend's opponents and have never faced the fourth in West Virginia. Although many of the matches occurred during the Division II era, Air Force is 32-9 all-time against Denver. The Falcons also hold a Division II record of 2-0 against Southern Utah. However, the last time the two programs competed against one another was during the 1980 season, as the Thunderbirds haven't fielded a volleyball team for the last 20 years. Air Force holds a 2-0 mark against Eastern Illinois, most recently a 3-2 victory over the Panthers in 2003.

    At 2-1 West Virginia is the only opponent entering this weekend with a winning record. Southern Utah and Eastern Illinois both split the opening weekend of play at 2-2, while host Denver is 0-3 on the year. The Mountaineers opened the season with a loss to Oakland, but responded with sweeps over Towson and Saint Francis. The Panthers defeated Kent State and IPFW, before falling to Butler and Drake. The Thunderbirds claimed victories over Delaware State and Texas Pan American, while falling to Sam Houston State and Louisiana-Lafayette. The Pioneers had a tough opening weekend, falling to Notre Dame, LSU and fifth-ranked Stanford.

    Three of the Falcons' matches this weekend will be broadcast live on 97.7 KAFA, the Academy's cadet-run radio station. Fans can tune in to listen to the West Virginia (Friday, 5 p.m.), Southern Utah (Saturday, 11 a.m.) and Eastern Illinois (Saturday, 5 p.m.) matches. A link to the KAFA site can be found on GoAirForceFalcons.com.

    Air Force's 3-1 season-opening weekend is the best start to a season since 1999. The season, the Falcons defeated Mississippi, Eastern Illinois and Fordham, before falling in four to Colorado. The Falcons went on to tally a 17-12 overall mark that year.

    Juniors Caroline Kurtz and Nichole Stilwell were named to the all-tournament team of the La Salle Invitational, marking the first such honor for either player. Kurtz paced all Falcons with 47 kills and nine aces, while tying for the team lead with 39 digs. Stilwell, hitting .194 on the weekend, tallied a team-best nine blocks, while adding 38 kills.

    The Falcons thrilling five-set victory (22-25, 18-25, 25-22, 25-22, 15-11) over La Salle on Aug. 28 marked the first time since Oct. 16, 2006, that Air Force had rallied from a 2-0 deficit to win the match. In that match, Air Force trailed Centenary by two (25-30, 24-30), before rolling off three straight wins (30-25, 38-36, 15-10) to take the match.

    Last year, the Falcons' best single-match production of aces was three. Freshman Maiya Perich matched that record during the first set of her first match. Perich served up a pair of back-to-back aces during a 6-0 run by the Falcons, before tallying her third ace on the Falcons' next-to-last point.

    Freshmen Grace Konstanzer, Dani Griffith and Maiya Perich are no longer `newcomers' to the program, after seeing significant action in the season opener against Cleveland State. As starters, Konstanzer accounted for six kills, one ace, six digs and an assisted block, while Griffith tallied seven assists and three digs. Perich came in off the bench and posted three aces and eight digs. Maile Lolohea and Briana Jones also saw action in the season opener.

    After the first weekend of action, Air Force is ranked second in opponent hitting percentage (.138) and fourth in both service aces (1.53 average) and digs (12.93 average). Individually, Caroline Kurtz (0.60) and Maiya Perich (0.53) are ranked first and third, respectively, in terms of aces per set. Kurtz is also ranked sixth in kills, averaging 3.13 strikes per set.

    Nichole Stilwell's 17 kills against La Salle is tied for the best single-match output of anyone in the Mountain West Conference, while Caroline Kurtz's 15 against both La Salle and Canisius are tied for third. Kurtz is tied for the best single-match ace output with four, while Maiya Perich is tied for second with three. In addition, Jessica Hellmann is ranked third with 35 assists.



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