Opening Day Ends with Two Losses for Volleyball
Aug. 25, 2017

Illinois Box Score | Air Force Box Score

BOZEMAN, Mont.--The Gonzaga University volleyball team opened the 2017 season with a pair of matches Friday, falling to Illinois and Air Force at the Montana State Bobcat Classic in Bozeman, Mont.

"We're still digesting a lot of things," said Gonzaga head coach Diane Nelson. "There is a lack of experience on this team, and we're not yet playing with as much confidence as I think we can be. Our middle offense is improving, but we're still looking for that leadership on the court."

Match One: Illinois 3, Gonzaga 0 (25-15, 25-16, 25-12)

Illinois took the season opener by out-hitting the Zags .434-.021 and out-blocking them 12.0-2.0. In both the first two sets, Gonzaga kept up with the Fighting Illini through the first 20 points before falling off the pace; in the third, Illinois pulled out to an early 12-2 lead and never looked back.

Redshirt senior Alyse Whitaker led Gonzaga with seven kills in her first appearance for the Bulldogs. The Murrieta, Calif., native transferred from Duke over the summer. Redshirt junior Kaylie Loewen also played a large role in the Zag attack, landing six kills in the first two sets. This was her first match since 2015 after redshirting last year. Sophomore Jenna Kuehn topped GU with 12 assists, and both she and Loewen combined for the Zags' two blocks.

For the Illini, Jacqueline Quade led the way with 10 kills while Ali Bastianelli hit .818. Bastianelli also added nine total blocks.

Match Two: Air Force 3, Gonzaga 1 (25-22, 20-25, 25-21, 25-23)

Friday night's contest against Air Force was much closer, featuring nine lead changes and 17 tie scores. After the two squads traded wins in the first two sets, Gonzaga's block came alive in the third to stop six Falcon attacks. It wasn't enough, however, as the foes from Colorado Springs, Colo., took the set by four points.

In the fourth, the Zags fell behind 17-9 but erased that deficit with a seven-point run of their own. A Falcon service error and a kill from Payton Mack then tied the frame at 23-all, but Air Force claimed the final two points to confirm the match win.

Loewen matched a career high with 12 kills during the contest, and Whitaker joined her in double-digits with 11. Freshman Chapin Gray topped the squad with seven total blocks -- four of which came in the third set -- and Faith Smith tallied 15 digs and 14 assists for Gonzaga's first double-double of the season.

The Falcons were led by Denise Ssozi, who posted a double-double of her own with 16 kills and 10 digs. Two others reached double-digit kills for Air Force.

Gonzaga (0-2) will wrap up the Montana State Bobcat Classic on Saturday, August 26, with a match against tournament host Montana State. That contest will begin at 6:00 p.m. Pacific (7:00 p.m. Mountain), again at Shroyer Gym in Bozeman.



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