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Aztecs overcome 2-1 deficit in sets on the road


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November 2, 2021 (Las Vegas) - The San Diego State volleyball team snapped a five-match losing streak on Monday, overcoming a 2-1 deficit in sets to record a dramatic 3-2 triumph (25-22, 16-25, 11-25, 25-23, 15-11) on the road over UNLV in a Mountain West clash at Cox Pavilion.

With the win, the Aztecs (7-18, 4-9 MW) posted their first five-set victory of the season in five matches and avenged a 3-0 loss to the Rebels (17-8, 7-6 MW) in San Diego on Oct. 5.

Despite trailing in every statistical category, SDSU posted more team blocks (5.0 to 1.0) over the final two sets while benefiting from nine UNLV attack errors overall and five wayward serves during that span to help key its comeback.

Individually, the Aztecs received double-digit kills from Zoi Faki (16) and Victoria O'Sullivan (12), while Heipua Tautua'a displayed her all-round game with eight kills, 12 digs and a team-high three block assists. Faki's total tied for match-high honors, as the SDSU outside hitter showed off her versatility as well with seven digs, three assists, one ace and a solo block.

In addition, the Scarlet and Black received a boost from Julia Haynie, who finished with six kills, four digs and a pair of block assists, while Natalie Smith topped the squad with 14 digs. Elsewhere, Ashley Vanderpan (20 assists) and Kennedy Feuerborn (16 assists) shared the setting duties, while Andrea Walker (.308) contributed five kills and a two blocks, including a solo stuff, to help the Aztecs put the brakes on a three-match slide vs. the Rebels.

UNLV, which collectively maintained the upper hand in kills (61-50), team blocks (9.0 to 5.0) and digs (59-45), seemed poised to close out the visitors in four sets after limiting SDSU to a minus-.069 hitting percentage in the third frame on six kills against eight errors in 29 attempts.

However, the Scarlet and Black flashed its resolve in the fourth set by cutting its attack errors in half while out-blocking the hosts (4.0 to 0). Haynie blasted four of her kills in the frame, while Walker and Tautua’a each floored two shots and recorded a pair of blocks.

Still, the teams witnessed 14 ties and five lead changes in the set, as each side was plagued by a combined seven errors on bad sets and off-target serves. Neither team led by more than two points, including the Aztecs, who nursed a slim 22-20 advantage after a Walker kill and a UNLV setting error. However, the lead quickly evaporated when the Rebels’ Mariena Hayden knocked down a kill, while Paola Garcia served up an ace to tie the score. Undaunted, SDSU closed with a 3-1 run, thanks to a pair of non-returnables by Haynie and Tautua’a and an errant UNLV attack.

The stage was now set for a thrilling finish, as the match moved to a fifth and deciding set, where the sides combined for five additional ties and four lead changes. Faki, who was limited just one kill in the fourth set after coming up empty in the third stanza, regained her touch in the nick of time with four kills on five swings without an error (.800) down the stretch. In addition, the Aztecs received aces from Haynie and Brooklynn Hill, while Tautua’a came up big defensively with five digs.

Hill’s serve broke a 6-6 deadlock, while Haynie and Tautua’a combined on a block moments later before Faki blasted a kill to give the Scarlet and Black a 9-6 lead it would not relinquish. The Rebels twice whittled the margin to two, including a 13-11 spread following consecutive put-aways by Lauren Burt and Hayden. SDSU regrouped after timeout as Faki unleashed another kill, while UNLV self-destructed with a ball-handling error to seal its fate.

The Aztecs posted a .310 hitting percentage in the opening set, launching 17 kills on 42 attempts with just four errors. Faki and Tautua’a led the early barrage with six put-aways each, while O’Sullivan added four. With the score knotted at 17-17, Tautua’a floored two straight shots, while Smith followed with an ace to put SDSU in front for good.

The Aztecs were even more efficient in the second stanza, recording a .321 clip on 10 kills against one error in 28 swings. However, the visitors could not keep up with the Rebels, who hit .500 for the set (17-2-30). SDSU trailed just 15-13 before the host school tallied five straight points to spark a 10-3 closing run.

UNLV received double-doubles from Hayden (16 kills, 12 digs) and Shelby Capllonch (10 kills, 17 digs), while Kate Brennan and Jordyn Freeman (5 block assists) finished with nine put-aways each in the loss.

San Diego State continues its road swing on Saturday, Nov. 6 when it travels to the Central Valley to face Fresno State starting at 11 a.m. 


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