Air Force Drops Saturday Doubleheader

DEKALB, Ill. – The Air Force volleyball team closed out the season-opening weekend with a pair of losses today, as it dropped 3-0 decisions to William and Mary and Northern Illinois on the final day of action at the Huskie Invitational in Illinois.
Air Force opened the day with a 27-25, 25-20, 25-20 neutral-site loss to William and Mary in the first match of today’s doubleheader. Sophomore Joi Harvey led the team in kills (eight) and blocks (five), while hitting .400 on the day (8-2-15). Senior Abigail Collins tallied 13 assists, while classmate Bailey Keith accounted for nine digs and freshman Murphy Riggs added a pair of service aces.
A kill from Harvey helped Air Force take an early 4-1 lead in the opening set, but the Tribe scored the next six points to for their own three-point advantage at the 7-4 mark. Another kill from Harvey stopped William and Mary’s run, while an ace from freshman Ella Tschuor pulled the Falcons within one (6-7). Fellow first-year Falcon Mac Russ put down a kill and teamed up with sophomore Savannah Neal for a block, as the Falcons evened the set at 10. Junior BrookeLyn Messenger tallied a pair of set-tying kills (11, 12), but a three-point run by the Tribe sent William and Mary into the media timeout with a 15-12 lead. Tschuor (two kills) and Harvey (kill, solo block) helped Air Force even the set at 16, while a back-to-back blocks from Neal (Harvey with the assist on the first, Russ with the assist on the second) sparked a 4-0 run by the Falcons that tie the set at 17 and pushed Air Force out to a 20-17 advantage. A solo stop by Russ and an ace from Keith nudged the lead out to four (22-18), but William and Mary scored five of the next six points to reach set point (24-23). Messenger (24) and Harvey (25) put down set-tying kills, but the Tribe secured the final two points for the 27-25 victory.
Air Force took an early 6-3 lead in the second, following kills from Messenger, Harvey and Keith (two), but a six-point run by the Tribe put the Falcons in a three-point (7-10) deficit and forced head coach Keith Barnett to call an early timeout. William and Mary extended their lead to five (14-9), before Keith (kill) and Riggs (ace) sparked a three-point run that pulled the Falcons within two (12-14). Another kill from Keith closed the gap to one (16-17), while a Messenger ace and a Tschuor/Russ block tied the set at 18. The Falcons surrendered four-straight points and, although Keith and Harvey teamed up for a block to stop the Tribes’ overall 5-1 run, William and Mary scored the final two points for the 25-20 win.
Harvey and Messenger opened the third set with a block and each added a kill, but the Tribe used a 7-2 run to put Air Force in an early 8-4 deficit. With two kills and an assisted block, junior Taleah Cooper sparked a six-point run by the Falcons that included a strike from Tschuor, who assisted Cooper on the block, and an ace from junior Sarah Markwardt that tied the set at 10. Another strike from Cooper evened the score at 12, while Harvey tied the set at 14 following a kill and assisted block (Keith). William and Mary took a two-point lead, but Collins (kill) and Riggs (ace) responded to tie the set at 17. Air Force took a 19-18 advantage following a Cooper kill, but the Tribe scored seven of the final eight points for the 25-20 win.
Air Force closed out the Huskie Invitational with a 3-0 loss to tournament host Northern Illinois in the second match of its Saturday doubleheader, as the home team claimed the 25-17, 25-21, 25-19 victory. Keith led the Falcons with eight kills, while Reinkensmeyer earned at least a share of the team lead in assists (28), aces (one, with Cooper) and blocks (four assisted, with Harvey). Riggs, in her first match at libero, registered a team-high nine digs to round out the squad’s scoring leaders.
With three kills apiece, Messenger and Keith accounted for six of the Falcons’ first eight points to start the match, but Air Force found itself in an early deficit, as the Huskies used an early scoring run to take an 11-4 lead over the Falcons. Northern Illinois extended its advantage to eight (8-16), before Harvey tallied a pair of kills and the duo of Reinkensmeyer and Cooper teamed up for a block (12-18). Keith (kill) and Messenger (solo block) continued to add points to the Falcons’ total, but NIU took the opening set, 25-17.
The teams traded the first eight points of the second set (4-4), with Tschuor tallying a kill and assisting on a block (Harvey) during the Falcons’ four. The Huskies scored three-straight points to break a six-all tie, before kills from Cooper (two) and senior Vittoria Juarez helped Air Force even the score at 11. The back-and-forth action resumed, with Harvey (kill, 12) and Keith (assisted block, 13; kill, 14) accounting for set-tying scores. Reinkensmeyer, who assisted Keith on the block, served up an ace to give Air Force its first lead (15-14) since the early stages of the set. KIlls from Tschuor, Cooper, Juarez and Harvey (two) gave Air Force a 20-17 advantage, but Northern Illinois scored eight of the final nine points to take the 25-21 win.
Backed by an ace from Cooper and a pair of scores from Juarez (kill, block with Harvey), Air Force took an early 3-2 lead to start the third set, but Northern Illinois responded with a 10-2 run to put the Falcons in a seven-point hole. Sophomore Aaryn Scires stopped the run with a kill (6-12) and teamed up with Reinkensmeyer for a block, before back-to-back kills from Cooper pulled the Falcons within five. Another strike from Cooper sparked a 5-1 run by the Falcons that included three points from Scires (two kills, another block with Reinkensmeyer) and brought Air Force back within one (16-17). Air Force stayed within one at the 17-18 mark, but the Huskies claimed seven of the last nine points for the 25-19 victory.
The Falcons (0-3), represented by Keith on this weekend’s all-tournament team, return to action on Sept. 3, when they travel to Spokane, Wash., for the two-day Gonzaga Invitational.