Volleyball keeps it close, falls to UNLV in straight sets

The+Aztecs+huddle+up+during+a+match+against+Air+Force.

Tania Gallardo Avalos

The Aztecs huddle up during a match against Air Force.

by Megan Oytas, Staff Writer

San Diego State had a tough match set up for it as UNLV — the Spring 2021 conference champions — came to Peterson Gym on Oct. 5. The Aztecs (5-12, 2-3 MWC) kept it close with the Rebels (13-3, 4-1 MWC) but ultimately fell in straight sets (25-21, 25-21, 25-20).

The two teams had a total of 30 ties and 16 lead changes, but UNLV was able to get timely runs that gave them the lead late in sets.

Senior outside hitter Victoria O’Sullivan said keeping it close with a tough opponent helps boosts the team’s confidence.

“Almost all of our games this season have been close, neck-and-neck, even the ones we lost,” O’Sullivan said. “I think that just goes to show that we’re in there every time and we just have to pull some strings at the end to finish it out.”

The Rebels had a narrow lead in the first two sets, staying one or two points ahead of the Aztecs but they were able to finish it off. In the third set, the Scarlet and Black forged an early 9-5 lead off of service errors from the Rebels, but UNLV responded with a 5-0 run to take the lead. SDSU took the lead again 19-17 with the help of two service errors by the Rebels, but UNLV did not back down and finished the game with a 8-1 run.

Head coach Brent Hilliard said the team could have chosen their attack spots better.

“Instead of using blocks to their advantage, they were hitting into the blocks,” Hilliard said. “They’re not a particularly great blocking team, although UNLV does a lot of stuff really well, that was an area where I was disappointed. We did not hit smart tonight.”

O’Sullivan led the team with 11 kills, followed by sophomore outside hitter Heipua Tautua’a with nine. The Aztecs, however, also posted 26 attack errors despite outhitting the Rebels 42-32.

The setters showed their versatility, with senior Noa Miller recording her second double-double as an Aztec with a team-high 21 assists and 12 digs and sophomore Kennedy Feuerborn posting four kills and nine assists.

Hilliard said both setters still needed more consistency in other areas, as both Miller and Feuerborn took a year off before joining the team.

“Noa’s one of those kids who took last year off and things don’t come back as quickly for those players who took last year off,” Hilliard said. “Kennedy was great offensively tonight, she really did some good things and that’s why she’s on the court. We need to utilize her size for blocking and she has to become a better blocker, but again she’s another kid who took a year off and joined us last year as a freshman, so she’s still learning the game.”

The Aztecs end their homestand against Fresno State on Oct. 7, who sit right above them in the Mountain West standings.

O’Sullivan said the game will be the opportunity for the team to live up to their potential.

“I’m hoping we use all this momentum,” O’Sullivan said. “We’ve kind of been building up, and it feels like we’ve been building up for a day for us to have a breakthrough and I think we’re nearing that. So it’s a good time for us to try that out.”

Sumia Wegner contributed to this story

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