Volleyball Drops Five-Set Heartbreaker to UCR
Sept. 15, 2017
DENVER -- The San Diego State volleyball team was unable to complete a stirring comeback against UC Riverside on Friday, falling in five sets (19-25, 22-25, 25-23, 25-18, 7-15) at the Denver Invitational inside Hamilton Gymnasium.
Down 2-0 in sets, the Aztecs (4-7) rallied to tie the score before grabbing a 6-5 lead in the final frame. However, the Highlanders (8-2) delivered a belated knockout punch, unleashing a decisive 10-1 run to close the match and escape with the victory.
SDSU outhit UCR .253-.099 in the third and fourth frames to climb back into contention, but came unglued in the final stanza with a minus-.292 attack percentage, recording just three kills on 24 attempts with 10 errors.
For the match, the Aztecs maintained a 61-51 advantage in kills, but were saddled with 35 hitting errors, compared to the Highlanders 27 miscues. In addition, UCR owned a slight edge in digs (67-66) and total blocks (12.5-11.0).
Individually, SDSU was paced by Deja Harris, who blasted a season-high 16 kills and led all players with a .464 hitting percentage to go with six blocks. In addition, Alexandra Psoma contributed 12 put-aways of her own and served up two aces, while Devyn Pritchard finished with 21 digs on the afternoon.
The Aztec cause was also advanced by Ashlynn Dunbar, who totaled nine kills, seven digs and five block assists, while Alexis Cage and Hannah Turnlund finished with eight kills apiece. Cage (.304) just missed out on her second double-double of the year after posting 10 digs, while Gabi Peoples (29 assists) and Indigo Thompson (19 assists) split time at setter.
San Diego State found itself on the ropes late in the third frame, trailing the Highlanders 23-20 following a Mickayla Sherman kill. However, the Aztecs responded with aplomb, reeling off five straight points to steal the set and keep the match alive. Harris keyed the run with three block assists, joining forces with Dunbar on two and combining with Cage on another. The Scarlet and Black also received a kill by Tamia Reeves and benefited from another errant UCR attack.
Buoyed by its good fortune, SDSU jumped out to a 5-0 advantage in set four and never looked back. The Aztecs hit .314 during the frame, launching 14 kills with just four errors on 35 swings. Psoma blasted five of those non-returnables, while Turnlund and Cage notched three apiece.
The Highlanders were in pursuit mode for the duration, but pulled to within 16-14 following a kill by Yulia Ushakova and an SDSU hitting error. However, the Aztecs kept UCR at bay, employing a 9-5 run to close the frame, as Turnlund provided the final two kills sandwiched around a combined block with Harris.
Turnlund kept things rolling with another put-away to start the fifth set, while a wayward Highlander attack gave SDSU a 2-0 advantage. However, UCR fashioned a 5-2 spurt, prompting an Aztec timeout. Shortly thereafter, San Diego State took its last lead of the contest at 6-5 after a Psoma kill and a UCR hitting error.
Moments later, the Highlanders' Brooke Callahan and Kat Lowry joined forces on a block, igniting the aforementioned 10-1 blitz that sealed the win for UCR. Sherman had three kills during that stretch, while Ushakova came up with a pair of blocks, one with Callahan and the other with Chelsea Doyle, to dash the Aztecs' comeback hopes.
Sherman finished with a team-high 16 kills for the Highlanders, while Callahan led all players with eight block assists. In addition, Doyle (46 assists, 12 digs) and Kaiulani Ahuna (12 kills, 14 digs) each recorded double-doubles in the victory.
UCR, which never trailed in the opening set, led by as many as seven at 18-11, following an Ahuna kill and an SDSU attack error. The Aztecs scored the next three points, capped by a Dunbar kill, to cut the deficit to 18-14, but could draw no closer.
The second stanza was a much tighter affair, with the two sides battling through 12 ties and five lead changes. The Highlanders jumped in front to stay at 21-18, sparked by a Callahan/Lowry block, followed by two Aztec miscues on a set and a subsequent attack.
UCR seemed primed for the sweep after overcoming an early 8-5 deficit with an 18-12 surge to vault in front 23-20. Sherman punctuated the run with a kill before SDSU caught lightning in a bottle to stay alive.
San Diego State closes out the Denver Invitational on Saturday when takes on Gonzaga in a matinee starting at 10 a.m. MT/9 a.m. PT, before battling the host Pioneers in the nightcap at 7 p.m. MT/6 p.m. PT.