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Utah State Downs Liberty, 3-0
Utah State used an efficient offensive attack to hold off Liberty, 3-0 (25-11, 25-11, 25-23), on Saturday at Duke's Cameron Indoor Stadium. The Aggies won the 2012 WAC regular-season championship, while the Lady Flames are the two-time defending Big South champion.
Utah State (6-4) hit .462 as a team, and finished in third place with a 1-2 record during this weekend's Duke Invitational. The Lady Flames (1-9) hit .136 in recording their sixth consecutive defeat. The Aggies held a 10-1 advantage in blocks, while edging the Lady Flames in digs, 40-37.
Liberty redshirt senior Kendle Rollins was named to the all-tournament team for her efforts this weekend.
Liberty was led in kills by freshman Nzea McQuitery, who recorded a career-high 11 kills at a .368 pace. Sophomore Monica Johnson hit .357 with eight kills. Junior Gabrielle Shipe collected a match-high 12 digs, while sophomore Caila Stapleton registered 16 assists and senior Becca Haraf totaled nine digs.
Elle Brainard, a sophomore, paced all players with 15 kills for the Aggies, and was followed by 11 kills from junior Rachel Orr. Junior Kaitlyn VanHoff recorded a match-high five blocks, and junior Paige Neves dished out a match-best 35 assists.
The Aggies connected at a .519 clip in taking set one, 25-11. Utah State used an 8-1 rally to gain an early seven-point advantage, 10-3, and pulled away late for the 14-point victory. Brainard recorded six kills for the Aggies, while McQuitery countered with a 4-0-4 hitting line for Liberty.
Utah State posted a 25-11 victory during the second set, hitting .792 for the set and for the second straight set finished with an attack error. The Lady Flames recorded a .227 hitting percentage during the middle frame. Four Aggies recorded at least three kills, led by four from Brainard and Van Hoff.
The Lady Flames battled back from 20-14, set-three deficit, with a three-point run capped by back-to-back kills from Rollins and Johnson. Utah State restored its advantage to five, 23-18, following two kills from Brainard. McQuitery sparked a 6-1 Liberty rally with a pair of kills, and Susan Babcock sent down a kill to make it 24-23, Utah State. After an Aggies timeout, an errant serve gave Utah State its 25th point, clinching the match.
Utah State outhit Liberty, .250-.188, with the Aggies posting five blocks. Brainard led all players with five kills, while McQuitery and Johnson both had four kills for the Lady Flames.
Liberty's 10-match road swing continues next weekend, when the Lady Flames compete in the WVU Gold & Blue Players Challenge in Morgantown, W.Va. The Lady Flames will face the host West Virginia Mountaineers on Friday at 1 p.m., and will then meet the UMBC Retrievers on Saturday at 1 p.m.