Utah State volleyball battles but drops pair of season-opening matches

LOGAN, Utah – Utah State volleyball opened the season with a pair of hard-fought losses at the Utah State Invitational Friday, falling to Eastern Michigan in five sets and took Xavier to four sets.

The Aggies and Eagles traded set victories, as USU claimed the first and third sets by decisions of 25-13 and 25-21, respectively. Eastern Michigan claimed a 25-20 win in the second set and forced extra points to take the 27-25 win in the fourth before winning the decisive fifth set, 15-10.

Utah State out-hit Eastern Michigan with an attack percentage of .179. Junior outside hitter Gabbi Shumway led the Aggies with a career-high 21 kills. Utah State posted 12 total blocks in the match, led by junior Bailey Downing with 3.5. The match gave several newcomers their first taste of USU volleyball, with senior transfer setter Heidi Carpenter, freshman outside hitter Hailey Cuff and freshman defensive specialist Grace DuBay seeing their first action.

Returning to the court that evening, the Aggies went down 0-2 as Xavier posted wins of 25-21 and 25-17, but bounced back to take set three, 25-16. Unfortunately a late run by the Musketeers ended the match in a 25-22 decision.

The Aggies worked through several rotations in the contest, giving many players the opportunity to record stats. Shumway again led the team in kills with 10, but was closely followed by freshman outside hitter Madi Brunatti with nine. USU finished the match with nine blocks, as Downing again led the team with 3.5. Brunatti made her first-career start against Xavier, while DuBay got her first chance at libero in the third and fourth sets. Junior setter Elle Nesbitt also made her first appearance as an Aggie after redshirting the 2018 season.

In other Utah State invitational action, Southern Utah swept the day with 3-0 victories over Eastern Michigan and Xavier. Tournament play will continue on Saturday, Aug. 31, when the Eagles and Musketeers play at noon, and the Aggies and Thunderbirds close out the weekend in a 2 p.m. match.

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