San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

Volleyball falls short against Utah State in five-set battle

Andrew Finley
Senior Natalie Smith sets up for a serve during the SDSU/USD Invitational.

In a closely contested game, San Diego State showed they could compete with one of the the top teams in the Mountain West Conference despite not being able to secure the victory. After the Aztecs’ (6-17, 3-8 MWC) close 2-3 loss last week against No. 1 team in the conference, Colorado State, they took it to five sets against No. 2 Utah State and fell short (21-25, 25-18, 25-16, 21-25, 15-17) on Oct. 28 at Peterson Gym.

The last matchup between the Aztecs and the Aggies (17-6, 9-2 MWC) resulted in a 3-0 sweep for USU, and the Scarlet and Black came close but missed scoring key points to get the win.

“We felt like if we play well, we have a chance to win every match,” head coach Brent Hilliard said. “We’ve proven that so many times this year, whether we lose in five or win some matches we aren’t expecting to, so we know we can win it’s just a matter of winning the really meaningful points. And that’s what we missed out on tonight. We had a lot of points that had a lot of leverage on them and we didn’t have as much success as they did.”

The first set went the way of the Aggies, with SDSU posting eight errors — including five service errors — to give USU the advantage. Senior outside hitter Victoria O’Sullivan attempted to bring the Aztecs back with four straight kills to hold the Aggies at set point, but USU took it in the end.

O’Sullivan’s reliable hitting late in the set came from her switching back to the outside hitter position, instead of the opposite hitter role she has been playing throughout the season.

“I’m back on the outside now, which is the position I used to play but I haven’t played this season, so it’s kind of a little bit of a switch,” O’Sullivan said. “But I’m a lot more comfortable out there so just telling (the team) I’m comfortable hitting the ball so they can rely on me is what got us through that.”

SDSU switched the momentum completely in the next two sets, taking commanding leads. Set two saw the Aztecs go on a 9-1 run to push them to an 18-10 lead, capitalizing off the nine errors in the set by USU. Set three featured the Aztecs taking a 22-14 lead, as well as more players contributing to the offense.

O’Sullivan posted a career-high 24 kills, with sophomore outside hitter Heipua Tautua’a recording her second double-double with 10 kills and 15 digs. The middle blockers also started putting up points with senior Andrea Walker getting 10 kills and junior Julia Haynie posting nine kills.

Spreading the wealth of points is critical for the team’s offense.

“We emphasize mixing the ball around and our passing really came out for us to get the middles involved in those two sets, and that was really good,” O’Sullivan said. “Once our passing gets down, it opens up a lot for a team.”

But USU responded to the Aztecs’ dominant performance by reversing the momentum again. Grabbing a quick 10-4 lead off of a slew of Aztec errors, the Aggies forced the match to a set five.

The fifth set featured 12 ties and six lead changes, and the Aztecs managed to make it to match point off an Aggie attack error and kills by freshman setter Kennedy Feuerborn and O’Sullivan. USU came back to tie it at 15-15, with the game ending off two untimely errors by the Scarlet and Black to give the Aggies the win.

Although the Aztecs outhit the Aggies with a hitting percentage of .206 versus USU’s .146, SDSU had 31 errors versus USU’s 24 to give the Aggies the advantage.

Hilliard said the lack of experience in playing with each other has been a recurring problem for the team to finish out matches.

“That’s the problem we’ve run into quite a bit this year. The chemistry, which has a lot of influence in the fifth game, is just not where it needs to be,” Hilliard said. “The trust factor, the reliance on each other, to be able to do those skill sets well, we still haven’t quite gotten that down even though we’ve had a big piece of the season to work it out. But that’s to be expected, to some extent, because most of our players have never played together.”

O’Sullivan said being able to take close games against the best teams in the conference helps the team look ahead to the future.

“It definitely gives us confidence because these are top teams and they’re pretty good,” O’Sullivan said. “But knowing that we are neck-and-neck with the top teams in the conference is a good feeling going forward.”

About the Contributors
Megan Oytas, Staff Writer
Megan Oytas is a second-year student double majoring in journalism and political science from Honolulu, Hawaii. Her hobbies include writing stories, listening to music and reading. She is a fan of baseball and hockey and aspires to be a sports journalist covering the MLB or NHL. Megan started writing for The Daily Aztec in 2019. You can follow her on Twitter @megoytas.
Andrew Finley, '21-22 Assistant Sports Editor
Andrew Finley is 22 years old and was born and raised in Ramona, Calif. where he resides today. He is a junior who transferred from Grossmont College in fall 2020 with an associate's degree in journalism. During that time, Finley was an assistant football coach for his alma mater Ramona High School. He was hired straight out of high school as the youngest assistant coach on the staff. Finley is now an undergraduate journalism student with aspirations of being a professional sports reporter/analyst once he graduates.
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San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913
Volleyball falls short against Utah State in five-set battle