Utah State Volleyball Breaks Open 2022 Season with Wins Over No. 12 UCLA and Cal Poly

LOGAN, Utah — Utah State volleyball picked up right where it left off a year ago as the Aggies defeated both No. 12 UCLA and Cal Poly 3-1 on Friday inside the Wayne Estes Center.

USU (2-0) won both of its matches in the doubleheader of the Utah State Invitational with a 3-1 (25-20, 27-25, 20-25, 27-25) win against Cal Poly (0-1) before ending the night a 3-1 (27-25, 29-27, 22-25, 25-19) victory over No. 12 UCLA (0-1). The victory marked the Aggies' first win over a ranked opponent since Utah State's 3-0 victory over No. 3 Hawai'i to win the WAC Tournament Championship on Nov. 24, 2010.

"I'm so proud of our group," head coach Rob Neilson said. "They were tired. They were gassed after playing a tough Cal Poly team this morning. For them to come out and just battle, work so hard and play together, that was just inspiring to watch them pull that match out. It was awesome."

Utah State and UCLA played four close sets with 40 ties and 20 lead changes. A 6-0 run in the first set, capped with back-to-back service aces from junior outside hitter Tatum Stall, gave USU the 9-6 lead. The Bruins evened the score at 9-apiece as the teams continued their back-and-forth until a kill from senior opposite side hitter Kylee Stokes put Utah State ahead 15-12.

The set stayed within three points for the remainder of the set with the teams knotted at 22-each. Utah State then faced a UCLA set point with the Bruins leading 24-22, but a Stall kill followed by a block from graduate opposite side hitter Emilee Turner and graduate middle blocker Myrthe Maring evened the score at 24-each.

With UCLA again at set point 25-24 Turner came out swinging for back-to-back kills. A Bruin attacking error clinched the 27-25 set one victory for the Aggies.

Set two told a similar story as neither team led by more than three points. A 3-0 USU run gave Utah State its largest lead of the set at 10-7 after a big-time block from Stokes and senior middle blocker Kennedi Boyd.

UCLA led by three twice in the set, including a late 22-19 edge. Utah State once again faced a UCLA set point situation as the Aggies trailed 24-22, however, a Stall kill and back-to-blocks from Maring and Turner put USU on top 25-24. The teams continued to trade points until kills from Stokes and Stall secured the 29-27 Utah State victory.

Despite staying within four points in the third, USU led just once in the set as UCLA won 25-22.

The Aggies were back in business in the fourth as the set featured a match-high eight lead changes. After being tied up at 12-apiece, a block from Boyd and redshirt freshman outside hitter Kaylie Ray, as well as a Ray kill, gave Utah State the 14-12 advantage.

The teams were once again knotted up at 16-16, but that was as close as it would get for the Bruins as USU went on a 5-0 run, capped by a Ray service ace, to lead 21-16. A UCLA attacking error put Utah State at set point and Stokes closed things out with a kill for the 25-19 victory.

"It was amazing," Stall said. "The vibe in Club Estes, there's no other feeling like it. We were just feeding off the energy and feeding off each other. Everyone was just balling out. Our team is amazing. Everything we've done in fall camp has just really paid off."

Overall, Utah State hit .184 (57-30-147) on the match, while holding UCLA to a .076 (46-35-145) mark. Three Aggies finished with double-digit kills as Stokes had a match-high 14, Stall had 11 and Boyd had 10. Boyd led USU with a career-high-tying eight blocks, including a career-best three solo.

Two Aggies recorded double-doubles as Stall finished with 11 digs, while freshman setter Leah Wilton-LaBoy posted 25 assists and 10 digs. Redshirt sophomore libero Jordi Holdaway led Utah State with a match-high 13 digs.

The Aggies started the day off with a 3-1 victory over Cal Poly.

The first set stayed close early as neither team led by more than one point until a 4-0 Aggie run gave USU the 13-9 lead. Utah State maintained the lead for the remainder of the set as a Turner and Boyd block secured the 25-20 victory.

USU led 14-11 in the second set, but Cal Poly fought back to hold the 20-17 edge. The Aggies faced a Mustang set point 24-21, but a kill from junior middle blocker Inka Mehtola, Stall and Mehtola block, Cal Poly error and a service ace from sophomore setter Beatriz Rodrigues gave USU the set point 25-24.

Cal Poly tied it once more at 25-apiece before a Mustang error and Turner kill gave Utah State the 27-25 set two victory.

Cal Poly fought back in set three as the Mustangs held a late 23-14 lead. Following a Cal Poly service error, a Holdaway ace, pair of Mustang errors and a Ray kill cut the deficit to 23-20. However, Cal Poly would win the set 25-20.

The Aggies bounced back in the fourth set to hold a 16-12 lead after three-straight kills from Stokes, Turner and Stall. After being tied at 21-apiece, the Aggies went on a 3-0 run for set point 24-21. However, a 4-0 Mustang run put Cal Poly on top 25-24. A couple of Mustang errors gave USU the 26-25 edge and Turner put the match to bed with a kill to secure the 27-25 win.

"It felt good," Stokes said. "It was the first game of our season. It's always good to learn what we need to work on and what we're doing well in. It was a good match to help us prepare for UCLA. I'm really excited for the season."

Overall, USU hit .188 (54-25-154), while Cal Poly posted a .219 (55-23-146) mark. Stokes, Turner and Stall each finished with double-digit kills with 15, 12 and 10, respectively. Mehtola led the Aggies with five blocks, including one solo.

Both Aggie setters finished with double-doubles as Wilton-LaBoy had 23 assists and 10 digs, while Rodrigues had 19 helpers and 16 digs. Holdaway added 12 digs.

Utah State next travels to Provo for the BYU Invitational No. 2 from Thursday, Sept. 1, to Saturday, Sept. 3, as the Aggies face No. 6 Pittsburgh (0-1), No. 10 BYU (2-0) and Cincinnati (0-2).

Fans can follow the Aggie volleyball program on Twitter, @USUVolleyball, on Facebook at /USUVolleyball or on Instagram, @usuvolleyball. Aggie fans can also follow the Utah State athletic program on Twitter, @USUAthletics, Facebook at /USUAthletics and on Instagram, @USUAthletics.


Ashley Springer
Utah State University Athletics
Assistant Media Relations Coordinator


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