SDSU volleyball takes home Denver Invitational title


Photo by Weicheng Han

Senior outside hitter Alexis Cage and junior middle blocker Deja Harris go up for a block during SDSU’s loss to Loyola Marymount.

by Sydney Northcutt, Staff Writer

San Diego State’s volleyball team left Denver, Colo. this weekend as tournament champions after it battled University of California-Riverside, Gonzaga University and the University of Denver.

The Aztecs started off the weekend with a five-set loss to Riverside (19-25, 22-25, 25-23, 25-18, 7-15). SDSU dropped the first two sets only to come back and win the third and fourth and drop the final set.Junior middle blocker Deja Harris — who had a season-high 16 kills — led the unavailing comeback in the third and fourth sets. 

However, the Aztecs were unable to hold onto a 6-5 lead in the final set and succumbed to a 10-1 Highlander run.

SDSU rebounded with a five-set win against Gonzaga on Saturday (25-18, 25-21, 19-25, 21-25, 15-10).

Throughout the match the Aztecs received solid contributions from a number of players, creating an even offense that proved difficult for the Bulldogs to handle. Freshman setter Gabi Peoples handed out 44 assists in total with Harris tallying 14 kills, a high for the match. 

In the fifth and final set the Aztecs held the Bulldogs to a zero percent hitting percentage while posting 10 kills themselves.

“Turning around and winning a five game match after losing a five game match was a highlight of the tournament,” head coach Deitre Collins-Parker said. “Just seeing our team figure it out is great.”

The Scarlet and Black topped off Saturday with a four-set win against Denver (20-25, 25-22, 25-20, 28-26) to secure the tournament championship.

After dropping the first set the Aztecs prevailed thanks to an advantage in both kills and digs. Both Harris and sophomore outside hitter Hannah Turnlund contributed 15 kills a piece while senior outside hitter Alexis Cage added 11 kills of her own paired with a match-high 19 digs. The match featured many ties and lead changes, with the Pioneers even gaining two set points in the fourth set before the Aztecs ultimately secured the win.

Turnlund used the extra playing time to her advantage as she recorded a career-high 15 kills against Denver.

“It feels really good going into conference play after getting my offense going,” Turnlund said, “Knowing that my team fully has my back in whatever I’m doing gives me confidence.”

SDSU not only brought home the championship but some individual hardware as well. Cage and sophomore outside hitter Ashlynn Dunbar were both all-tournament selections while Harris took home the tournament MVP award.

Overall, Collins-Parker was happy with her team’s performance at the tournament and is more confident now than ever heading into conference play this week.

“I couldn’t have asked for a better way to end nonconference play,” Collins-Parker said, “I’m really really happy with our young players. They are willing to fill roles for the betterment of the team and it’s great when they are willing to make sacrifices to make the team better.”

After the Denver Invitational the Scarlet and Black finish their nonconference run with a 6-7 record as they head into Mountain West Conference play this week. The Aztecs will face conference competition this week in Utah State University on Thursday, Sept. 21 and Boise State University on Saturday, Sept. 23.