Utah State volleyball defeats Pacific in season opener

USU women’s volleyball walked away with a victory to open their home tournament last Friday, outlasting a tougher-than-expected Pacific squad, 3-2.

The Lady Aggies failed to put away the visiting Lady Tigers in the fourth set despite being up big to start, but pulled away in the tiebreaker set to seal the win, 23-25, 25-19, 25-20, 22-25, 15-10.

“It was a grind, we were gritty,” head coach Grayson DuBose said, “That’s been one of our mantras the last couple years — ‘let’s see how gritty we can get.’”

Utah State dropped the first set, 25-23, yet showed that “grit” mentioned by DuBose in keeping a close match despite being down by six early in the set. The following sets were all Aggies as USU kept a solid lead over the Tigers for the next two sets, taking both.

It looked to be over in set four when the Lady Aggies went up 12-4 to start the set, but a furious rally from Pacific, coupled with a sudden slew of errors by USU, led to a Tiger takeover. Pacific had three-, four-, and six-point runs consecutively to take a lead, and they never looked back en route to stealing the set point and putting it to a tiebreaker.

“I thought we got off-task,” DuBose said. “It’s a learning process. We have enough maturity with our four seniors, so we shouldn’t allow that to happen.”

The game marked the first career start for setter Jaysa Funk, a redshirt freshman out of Lone Peak High School. Funk filled in for usual starting setter, junior Kassidy Johnson, and shined brightly with a double-double with 46 assists and 15 digs, pacing the USU attack.

“She does exactly what we trained her to do,” DuBose said. “We train our setters to run our offense. It’s a bummer that [Johnson] got hurt, but here’s this ‘next-man-up’ kind of philosophy.”

Funk not only provide of the offensive fuel, but also had several highlight-worthy moments throughout the match. From a spectacular solo block in set one, followed by a show of reflexes as she dove for an outside spike by Pacific and then pulled her hands away at the last second to allow the potential to land out of bounds.

“I was just like, ‘oh shoot, it’s out,” Funk said, “So I pulled away. Better to be lucky than good sometimes.”

Funk also impressed with a save off her foot later in the game. “I just think my mentality going in is just to be team-oriented,” Funk said. “The more we’re team-oriented, the better we’re going to be.”

Senior hitter Lauren Anderson led the attack with an astounding 22 kills. Of her four career games with 20 kills or more, two of them have occurred in the last week. “I just feel like I’ve gotten a lot a lot more consistent,” Anderson said. “I don’t make as many silly errors as I used to. Maybe that just comes with seniority.”