It wasn’t the start the Aggies were looking for to start the 2019 volleyball season Friday afternoon and evening.
Hosting the Utah State Invitational at the Estes Center, the Aggies opened against Eastern Michigan. The Eagles just kept hanging around and eventually swooped in to claim a five-set victory, 13-25, 25-20, 21-25, 27-25, 15-10.
With a 24-20 lead and serving for the match, USU could not put Eastern Michigan away. The Eagles reeled off five straight points to take the lead and finished the set on a 7-1 run to even it up at two games each.
There were six lead changes in the decisive fifth set before the Eagles went on a 4-0 run to surge ahead and stay there. A block by Eastern Michigan ended the match, and the Aggies exited the floor on a down note.
Gabbi Shumway led USU and the match with a career-high 21 kills and three block assists. Whitney Solosabal had a double-double with 11 kills and 10 digs. Izzie Belnap recorded nine kills, while Bailey Downing hit a team-best .300 with eight kills, a solo block and five block assists. All Packard led the team with 24 digs, while Heidi Carpenter and Grace DuBay had 12 and 10 digs, respectively. Carpenter got the nod at setter and had match-high 47 assists.
The Eagles had three players reach double digits in kills with Franki Strefling (16), Cassie Haut (15) and April Houston (10). Strefling and Camille Schomer each had 20 digs.
Later in the evening, USU took on Xavier and fell in four sets to the Musketeers (1-1) 25-21, 25-17, 16-25, 25-22. Once again the Aggies let a lead get away in the fourth set, but this time there was no fifth to try and rally in.
The Aggies worked through several rotations in the contest, giving many players the opportunity to see action. Shumway again led the team in kills with 10. She 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 action Friday at the Utah State Invitational, Southern Utah beat both Xavier and Eastern Michigan in straight sets.
The two-day event wraps up Saturday at the Estes Center with two matches. Eastern Michigan and Xavier meet at noon with USU taking on SUU at 2 p.m.