Sept. 15, 2009
The Air Force volleyball team opens Mountain West Conference action this week with a pair of matches in the state of Utah. The Falcons will travel to face Salt Lake City on Thursday, Sept. 17, to face defending conference champion Utah at 7 p.m. Air Force will close out the opening weekend of league play as it heads to Provo to face BYU on Saturday, Sept. 19, in a 1 p.m. match.
Match Notes 04: at Utah, at BYU
Air Force hasn't fared well against its foes from the Beehive State in the past, holding a 1-45 all-time record. The Falcons have never defeated the Utes in 23 attempts, and are just 1-22 against the Cougars. However, Air Force's only victory in either series came during a four-set win at BYU during the 2002 season.
OPPONENT QUICK HITS
Despite opening the season with four straight wins, Utah is 6-4 on the year. The Utes, who will host 12th-ranked Oregon on Tuesday, went 0-2 last weekend (Sept. 11-12), getting swept by Arizona and Santa Clara at the SC Invitational. BYU is currently 4-6 on the season, but will face San Diego State prior to its meeting with Air Force. The Cougars had a tough weekend at the Ameritas Players Challenge (Sept. 10-12), falling in four sets to eighth-ranked UCLA, fifth-ranked Nebraska and Virginia.
EIGHT IS GREAT!
The Falcons picked up their eighth win of the season with a 3-0 victory over Louisiana-Monroe on Sept. 12. The eight wins are the most for an Air Force squad since 2003, when that team collected 14. The 8-4 start to the season is the best 12-match stretch for the Falcons since that year as well.
THE "HARDWARE" STORE
Air Force collected several accolades following their 3-1 weekend at the Sugar Bear Classic. Michelle Harrington, Jessica Hellmann and Nichole Stilwell were named to the all-tournament team. In addition, Hellmann was selected as the Air Force Academy's Athlete of the Week and Stilwell was selected as the Mountain West Conference Co-Player of the Week.
TOP OF THE MOUNTAIN
Junior Nichole Stilwell became the Falcons' first conference player of the week since the 2003 season, as she earned the honor on Sept. 15. At the Sugar Bear Classic, sheaveraged a team-high 3.57 kills, 1.00 blocks, 0.29 digs and 4.11 points per set, while hitting a team-best .455 (50-10-88) in 14 sets. Stilwell joins Shaylor Billins (1999), Summer Koons (1999), Delavane Diaz (2000, 2003) and Lamecca Jefferson (2003) as Air force players who have earned a share of the MWC Player of the Week award.
IT'S TOURNEY TIME
Michelle Harrington, Jessica Hellmann and Nichole Stilwell were named to the all-tournament team of the Sugar Bear Classic. All three were instrumental to the Falcons' 3-1 weekend, both offensively and defensively. Stilwell led the Falcons with 50 kills and a .465 hitting percentage, while tying with Hellmann for second on the team with 14 total blocks. Hellmann contributed 132 assists, while adding 15 kills, two service aces and 27 digs. Harrington, the weekend leader in blocks with 17, posted 29 kills and three service aces.
SHE'S QUITE THE HELPER
Junior Jessica Hellmann recorded her 1,000 career assists over the Sept. 11-12 weekend in Arkansas. Hellmann, who split time at the setter position during her first two years, is just the sixth Air Force player to record over 1,000 helpers in the Division I era.
Air Force accounted for 21 combined service aces in a pair of 3-0 victories on Saturday, Sept. 12. The Falcons blasted out 12 aces in the win over Arkansas-Pine Bluff, before adding nine in the nightcap win over Louisiana-Monroe. Freshman Maile Lolohea paced the Falcons with four against UAPB, while juniors Caroline Kurtz and Kelly Spencer each added three. Against ULM, Kurtz paced the team with five aces, including a span of four straight.
TAKE A SEAT
The Falcons dominated their opponents on Saturday, Sept. 12, allowing the two teams to average just 12.8 points per set in a pair of sweeping victories. The Falcons stingy defense allowed Arkansas-Pine Bluff and Louisiana-Monroe to hit -.023 on the day (29-32-129). Air Force is currently ranked second in the conference with an opponent hitting percentage of .151 - an average just .001 off of the conference lead.
STARTING OUT HOT
Air Force's 8-4 start to the 2009 season is its best 12-match opening since 2003. That year, the Falcons also posted an 8-4 mark in their first 12 matches. Air Force's best 12-match start to a season since joining Division I was in 1999, when the Falcons rolled to an early 10-2 record.
Air Force improved to 3-0 in five-set matches this season, after defeating Louisiana Tech in thrilling 23-25, 25-18, 25-21, 21-25, 19-17 fashion on Sept. 11. It is the first time in Division I history that Air Force has won three five-set matches in a single season.