Sept. 14, 2017
Denver Invitational Preview
San Diego State (4-6) vs. UC Riverside (7-2)
Friday, Sept. 15 | 3 p.m. MT/ 2 p.m. PT | Hamilton Gymnasium
San Diego State (4-6) vs. Gonzaga (4-5)
Saturday, Sept. 16 | 10 a.m. MT/9 a.m. PT | Hamilton Gymnasium
San Diego State (4-6) at Denver (7-2)
Saturday, Sept. 16 | 7 p.m. MT/6 p.m. PT | Hamilton Gymnasium
SAN DIEGO - San Diego State closes out the non-conference portion of its 2017 regular-season schedule this weekend when it ventures to the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains for the Denver Invitational, Sept. 15-16, in Denver, Colorado. The Aztecs open the tournament on Friday when they battle UC Riverside inside Hamilton Gymnasium, starting at 3 p.m. MT/2 p.m. PT.
On Saturday, Sept. 16, the Aztecs will square off against two additional opponents, locking horns with Gonzaga at 10 a.m. MT/9 a.m. PT, followed by a clash with the host Pioneers at 7 p.m. PT/6 p.m. PT.
Gametracker stats will be available throughout the weekend, while SDSU’s match at Denver will air live on Altitude Sports 2 (National: Dish Network - channel 440; DirecTV - channel 681-1)
> San Diego State owns a 12-1 record against UC Riverside, including a 3-1 triumph on the road in the last encounter between the two squads in 2011. The Aztecs and Highlanders have met at a neutral site on two previous occasions, with the Scarlet and Black emerging victorious at the UCLA Invitational in 1976 and the Titan Invitational at Cal State Fullerton in 1985. SDSU 149-105 against current members of the Big West.
> The Aztecs have split their two previous encounters with Gonzaga, both on the Zags’ home floor. In 1993, SDSU rallied from a 2-1 deficit in sets to escape with a 3-2 decision, while GU won in four sets at the Gonzaga Invitational in 2008. The Aztecs have faced three West Coast Conference opponents already this season (1-2) and are 76-87 all-time against current schools in that league.
> San Diego State and Denver will be battling one another for just the fourth time ever on Saturday. SDSU is 1-2 against the Pioneers overall, including a tough 3-2 defeat in the 2016 Aztec Invitational. In that match, Alexandra Psoma tied for team-high honors with 12 kills, while Deja Harris hit .500 on eight kills to go with five blocks. In addition, Indigo Thompson got into the act with a double-double, posting 27 assists and 11 digs. SDSU won the first meeting between the two squads with a four-set victory in 2001 in Tempe, Arizona. The Aztecs have faced just one other school currently aligned with the Summit League, splitting two matches with Oral Roberts in 2003 and 2004.
SCOUTING THE OPPOSITION
> UC Riverside (7-2) posted a 2-1 mark at the Texas Tech Tournament last weekend, logging a pair of victories over Texas-Rio Grande Valley (3-1) and Lamar (3-0), sandwiched around a three-set loss the host Red Raiders. The Highlanders are just one win shy of matching their victory total from a year ago when they compiled an 8-20 record. UCR has been led thus far by junior outside hitter Kaiulani Ahuna, a transfer from Eastern Washington who is averaging 3.35 kills per set, which ranks ninth in the Big West. In addition, the Highlanders have received a boost from junior setter Chelsea Doyle, a 2015 Big West all-freshman honoree who occupies the second spot in the league with 11.77 assists per frame, while freshman libero Nicole Rodriguez ranks fourth with 4.47 digs per set. Not to be outdone freshmen middle blockers Kat Lowery (5th, 1.00/set) and Yuliya Ushakova (T-7th, 0.89/set) also find themselves among the conference leaders in blocks. Head coach Michelle Patton-Coleman is in her fifth season at UCR after spending five years at San Francisco State, where she led the Gators to a pair of NCAA Division II regional appearances in 2009 and 2012.
> Gonzaga (4-5) is also coming off a 2-1 performance last weekend at the GCU Tournament in Phoenix, Arizona, where it defeated Fordham (3-1) and the host Antelopes (3-0) after opening with a three-set defeat at the hands of Idaho. The Zags return nine letterwinners and two starters from last year’s team that amassed a 17-11 overall record and tied for third in West Coast Conference. Gonzaga has been paced so far this season by junior outside hitter Kaylie Loewen, who has posted a .310 attack percentage and an average of 2.73 kills per set. Junior Faith Smith (5.61 aps) and sophomore Jenna Kuehn (4.33 aps) have split the setter responsibilities, while junior libero Marit Thorkildsen anchors the Zags’ back row with 3.73 digs per frame. Diane Nelson enters her second season as head coach of the Gonzaga program and seventh overall at her alma mater. As a player, she is one of 14 Zags to record 1,000 career kills, finishing with 1,094 and ranks on the school’s all-time list with 95 service aces.
> Denver (7-2) dropped two of three matches last weekend at the American Campus Classic in Austin, Texas, falling to top-ranked Minnesota and host Texas in consecutive sweeps before salvaging its trip with a 3-1 victory over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. The Pioneers return nine letterwinners, two starters and the libero from last year’s team that went 23-9, captured the Summit League championship and advanced to the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Offensively, DU is led by junior outside hitter Becca Latham, who occupies the second spot in the conference with a .320 hitting percentage and ranks sixth in kills (3.16/set). The Pioneers also boast junior middle blocker Emma Willis, a two-time all-Summit League selection at middle blocker who tops the conference in blocks (1.16/set), while senior libero Cassidy Rooke occupies the sixth position in digs (3.69/set). Denver also utilizes a two setter rotation, with senior Piyusha Boteju (5.68/set) and freshman Ellie Anderson (4.85/set), who rank seventh and 10th, respectively in the Summit League this week in assists. Head coach Tom Hogan is in second season at the helm of the Pioneer program after spending two years as the team’s associate head coach in 2014 and 2015.
AZTECS AMONG MOUNTAIN WEST LEADERS
> Entering the fourth weekend of the season, Deja Harris and Devyn Pritchard are among the Mountain West leaders in various categories.
> Harris ranks third in the conference with a .401 hitting percentage and occupies the ninth spot with 1.09 blocks per set.
> Pritchard also landed in the ninth position this week with 3.91 digs per set.
> As a team, SDSU ranks among the top half of the conference in hitting percentage (4th, .231), kills (4th, 13.24/set) and assists (4th, 12.48/set).
For complete release, please view PDF at top of page