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Could it have been any more thrilling for Aggie fans Saturday?

The day started with both the men’s and women’s cross country teams sweeping team titles at the Montana State Invitational in Bozeman. The Utah State volleyball team swept Idaho State in a home match later in the day. The Aggie soccer team stunned nationally ranked BYU in Provo in overtime Saturday night, followed by another thrilling comeback victory for the football team.

With its 2-1 victory over No. 18 BYU, USU was rewarded Monday by sweeping the weekly awards handed out by the Mountain West Conference. Senior midfielder Ashley Cardozo was named the MW Offensive Player of the Week, junior keeper Diera Walton was named the MW Defensive Player of the Week and freshman midfielder Tenzi Knowles was named the MW Freshman of the Week.

Cardozo scored two of the three Utah State goals last week, recording the Aggies’ opening goal against both Utah and BYU. Cardozo’s strike in the 52nd minute tied the match against the Utes and her goal against the Cougars in the 24th minute put the Aggies on the board first as she took a long cross from Addi Coon and sent a screamer into the net from just inside the 18-yard box. She leads USU this season with four goals.

Walton recorded a season-high 11 saves in the Aggies’ 2-1 overtime win against the Cougars, the second-most saves by a keeper in the MW this season. For the week, Walton totaled 16 saves, increasing her season total to 42 to rank second in the league.

Knowles picked a good time to score her first collegiate goal. In the 99th minute of the first overtime period in Provo, the former Ridgeline star settled the ball from a pass from Kami Warner and went right, then cut back just outside the 18-yard box and booted a left-footed shot for the winner. Knowles appeared in 59 minutes of action and took the one shot.

It was the first-ever win for the Aggies at BYU.

USU (7-1-1) opens conference play this week, hosting Nevada at Chuck and Gloria Bell Field on Friday at 4 p.m.

CROSS COUNTRY

The men stayed put at No. 4 in Week 2 of the NCAA DI Cross Country regional rankings, which were released Monday by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA), while the Aggie women climbed one spot to No. 8 in the Mountain Region.

Leading the men’s Mountain Region is Northern Arizona, with BYU ranking second, Colorado ranking third and Weber State rounding out the top five.

There was no change to the order of the top 5 women’s teams in the Mountain Region as BYU and New Mexico remained at No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, followed by No. 3 NAU, No. 4 Colorado and No. 5 Colorado State.

USU swept the team titles last weekend at the 44th Montana State Cross Country Classic. The men, ranked 17th in the nation, finished with 24 points, while the women tallied 31 points for the victories.

In the men’s 8K race, Montana State’s Duncan Hamilton placed first overall before three consecutive Aggies crossed the finish line. Seniors Mark Crandall, Roberto Porras and Darren Harman finished second, third, and fourth, respectively, with times of 24:25.40, 24:30.40 and 24:31.40. Montana State, which won the event in 2019 over second-place USU, finished second with 35 points.

“It was a good day,” USU head cross country coach Artie Gulden said in a press release. “The guys started it off well. We kept a really good pack and won the race as a team in the last two miles. We held out a few folks due to some sickness and other things, so the focus for the next little bit is getting them healthy.”

In the women’s 5K, a Montana State representative again paced the field in Camilla Noe. After two Weber State finishers, four consecutive Aggies crossed the finish line to propel USU to first place as a team. Freshman Emma Thornley (16:33.40), seniors Katie Haviland (16:35.60) and Mica Rivera (16:37.40), and junior Bailey Brinkerhoff (16:51.00), finished fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh, respectively. USU narrowly edged out Weber State, which finished second with 34 points.

“The ladies ran really tough,” Gulden said. “Weber State has a strong, experienced team. Our ladies’ depth was able to get the job done. We will look to build on this into the next couple of weeks.”

USU’s cross country teams will return to action on Saturday at the Idaho State Invitational in Pocatello.

VOLLEYBALL

After eight matches away from home, the Aggies returned to the Wayne Estes Center Saturday, closing the non-conference portion of the 2021 schedule with a sweep of the Bengals, 25-16, 25-18, 25-19.

Idaho State led briefly in the early minutes of the first two sets, but the Aggies (8-4) otherwise controlled the match. USU built its biggest leads in the middle of each set, leading by as many as six each time. The Bengals clawed back each time, but never gained enough momentum to close one out. The Aggies led wire-to-wire in the third after scoring five straight points to open the set.

Outside hitter Tatum Stall led the Aggies with nine kills and nine digs, while hitting .368. The two Aggie setters — Kalena Vaivai and Kalia Thunstrom — each recorded 15 assists. USU had another strong performance on the block, with middle blockers Kylee Stokes tallying nine and Inka Mehtola adding eight. As a team, USU hit .247, while Idaho State hit .119.

The Aggies open Mountain West play on the road with a pair of matches this week. USU will play at Wyoming on Thursday at 6 p.m., and at Colorado State on Saturday at 1 p.m.

Shawn Harrison is the sports editor at The Herald Journal. He can be reached at sharrison@hjnews.com or 435-792-7233.

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