Falcons Take Unbeaten BYU to Five

    USAF ACADEMY, Colo. -- The Air Force volleyball team nearly pulled off the upset - taking 22nd-ranked BYU to five games on Saturday (Sept. 24) night in Mountain West Conference action at the Academy. With a trio of Falcons collecting double-digit kill totals, the Falcons picked up a pair of wins from the unbeaten Cougars, before succumbing to the 3-2 (30-27, 24-30, 30-23, 18-30, 11-15) loss.

    Air Force found itself in an early deficit, but quickly regrouped. Sophomore Rebecca Gerton (San Leandro, Calif.) served up an ace that tied the game at eight. The Falcons took their first lead off of another ace from senior Rebecca Gallegos (Las Vegas, N.M.). Four straight attacking errors by BYU pulled the Falcons out to a 14-10 lead. Air Force continued to lead the set, backed by kills from senior Briana Thomas (Grass Valley, Calif.). The Cougars slowly climbed back, tying it at 26. Air Force once again regained the lead and a strong kill from Gallegos secured the 30-27 game win.

    BYU took the early lead in the second game, but Thomas teamed up with classmate Carly Siefken (Beaverton, Ore.) for a block to tie it at four. A kill by Gallegos tied it at five and a BYU attacking error gave the Falcons their first lead at 6-5. The Cougars reclaimed the lead, but Air Force hung close, backed by a series of kills from Thomas and freshman Jasamine Pettie (Baton Rouge, La.). The Falcons used an ace from Siefken to tie the game at 23, but a final run by the Cougars led to the 30-24 BYU win.

    Air Force took the first point of the third game and advanced to a 6-3 lead. Freshman Kristina Stewart (Glendale, Ariz.) added a kill to drive out the lead to 9-4, causing the Cougars to call an early timeout. Late, another ace by Gallegos doubled the Falcons' total with BYU (16-8). A commanding block by sophomore Brooke Akers (Desert Hot Springs, Calif.), followed by an attacking error by the Cougars, put the Falcons at the 20-point plateau with an eight point lead. BYU continued to attack, pulling within four at 25-21. Akers added another impressive block to advance the lead and teamed up with Siefken for an assisted stop, as the Falcons toppled the Cougars 30-23.

    BYU opened the scoring in the fourth with a 6-0 run, before a block by Gallegos and Pettie halted the streak. The Cougars widened their lead to 12-2, but Air Force kept scoring, behind a pair of Thomas kills and an ace by Siefken. Akers added another pair of kills and Thomas teamed up with Gallegos for a block, but BYU went on to force a fifth game by a 30-18 margin.

    The Cougars struck first in the final set, but Akers responded with a kill. That started a trend, as the two teams traded point for point. The Cougars finally pulled ahead as the two teams switched sides with BYU holding an 8-5 lead. A kill by Stewart put the Falcons within two and Akers brought the set to one (11-10), but the Cougars claimed the hard-fought 15-11 set to remain undefeated.

    Akers led the team with 16 kills, while Gallegos added 11. Thomas doubled her season output with 10 kills, en route to a team-best .227 hitting percentage. Siefken collected 45 assists, while adding a team-high 11 digs. Siefken and Gallegos each collected a pair of aces, while Akers recorded two solo blocks and six assisted stops. Siefken added seven assisted stops, as the Falcons matched a season-best 12.0 total blocks.

    Air Force continues its eight-match home stand next weekend (Sept. 30-Oct. 1), when it hosts San Diego State and UNLV in Mountain West Conference action. Both matches are slated to begin at 7 p.m. in the Cadet East Gym.


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