Air Force Opens Conference Play With Close Loss to Utah
USAF ACADEMY, Colo. -- Despite 18 kills from sophomore Brooke Akers (Desert Hot Springs, Calif.), the Air Force opened the Mountain West Conference season with a 3-0 loss to Utah on Friday, Sept. 23, at the Academy's Cadet East Gym. The Falcons put pressure on the defending conference co-champions, but ultimately dropped 30-21, 30-24 and 30-26 sets to the Utes.
Air Force and Utah traded points throughout the opening minutes of the first game. Akers put down her first of seven kills in the opening set to keep the Falcons and Utes close, but a 9-0 run by the visitors put Air Force at the disadvantage. An Akers kill halted the streak, but the damage was done. The Falcons refused to give up, holding the Utes at 28 points, while scoring three of their own to break the 20-point plateau. Air Force and Utah traded kills en route to the 30-21 Utah win.
Freshman Jasamine Pettie (Baton Rouge, La.) got the scoring started for the Falcons in the second set. The Falcons stuck with the Utes, as the two teams traded points once more. Utah began to pull away at the 12-9 mark, but freshman Kristina Stewart (Glendale, Ariz.) served up two straight aces to keep the Falcons close. With a serve heading for the rafters, Air Force gained momentum by keeping the play going and earning the high-flying point. A block by seniors Rebecca Gallegos (Las Vegas, N.M.) and Briana Thomas (Grass Valley, Calif.) cut Utah's lead to two, but the Utes went on to claim the 30-24 lead.
The Falcons opened the third set with a 10-2 run, behind strong serving sets from Gallegos, Stewart and sophomore Kim Kallabis (Camino, Calif.), who recorded two service aces during her run. Following the run, Utah kept the Falcons in check and tied the game at 17 and took the lead on the ensuing point. Pettie's kill pulled the Falcons back within one and a driving kill by Akers two plays later kept it there. Akers tied the set at 26 with a solid block. Unfortunately for Air Force, Utah picked up the final four points to take the set, 30-26.
Akers led all scorers with 18 kills, but was the only Falcon to close in on a double-digit outing. She also led the team with a .500 hitting percentage, committing just three errors on 30 attempts. Senior Carly Siefken (Beaverton, Ore.) led the team with 10 digs, while collecting 29 assists. Stewart claimed four aces to lead all participants, as Air Force dominated from the line. Although both teams recorded seven total aces, the Falcons committed just three serving errors, compared to the Utes' 14.
The Falcons wrap up a three match weekend tomorrow (Sept. 24) when they host undefeated BYU in Mountain West Conference action. Air Force will welcome the 22nd-ranked Cougars at 7 p.m., in East Gym.