FRESNO, California--With their backs against the wall numerous times throughout the evening, the Boise State volleyball team pulled one out of the fire tonight, earning a five-set victory over their long-time rivals from Fresno State.
Maddy O'Donnell's thunderous spike down the middle of the court ended a marathon two-and-a-half hour match, the 13th time in 17 meetings that a battle between the Broncos and Bulldogs went the distance. There were 53 ties and 25 lead changes in the match, including seven ties and five lead changes in the fifth set. Boise State came from a 2-0 deficit to win for the first time in six years and only the fifth time since the dawn of the rally scoring era (2001). The Broncos spotted San Jose State the first two sets in Western Athletic Conference play in 2009 before winning the match.
In a back-and-forth match in which the homestanding Bulldogs seemed to put second-place Boise State on its heels, Fresno won the opening set 25-23. Then, after fighting back from a 15-10 deficit, FSU went on a 15-7 run to take the set 25-22 for a commanding 2-0 lead as the teams went into their respective locker rooms.
Boise State once again got behind in the third set 18-14, and then stormed back to temporarily assume a 22-19 lead, only to see Fresno reel off five unanswered points. In what would become a pattern throughout the night, Coach Shawn Garus' team came back from the dead, staving off three straight match points (24-22, 24-23 and 25-24) to avoid being swept. O'Donnell and freshman Reece Carman combined for a key block that gave the advantage to Boise State and sophomore Maddi Osburn served with the Broncos leading 26-25. Sophomore Sierra Nobley made a sensational dig to save the point and the Broncos captured their first set when Carman and O'Donnell delivered an encore when they again stopped a Bulldog shot with their second consecutive block assist.
“I thought that Reece came up big for us in the third and fourth sets for us,” Garus said. “She gave us a presence up front that caused Fresno State some trouble. She and Maddy were big for us in the final moments of the third set that gave us the chance to get back into the match instead of losing 3-0.”
Boise State went on a 5-0 run to take control of set #4, 24-19. Fresno State saved one set point, but senior Katelyn Kinghorn rang home a winner and the Broncos captured the set, 25-20.
In the fifth and deciding set, Fresno State again assumed a commanding 10-5 set, just 5 points away from victory, and then grabbed another five-point lead at 11-6. But the Broncos showed great grit to storm back once again to tie it at 13. Three times the Bulldogs had match point, and three times Boise State came back, with Fresno State saving three match points of their own. Finally, after saving a Bulldog match point up 18-17, Nobley tied the count with a kill. Hannah Hubbard recorded a service ace for the lead and O'Donnell was true were her game-winner. The Broncos summoned every ounce of energy to prevail 20-18 and win the match.
Osburn, who is making a habit of turning spectacular, athletic plays into common occurrences for Boise State, tied the school record for digs in a game with 41. Garus noted that Osburn helped turn the match around with 14 digs in the fourth set alone, and 7 more in the fifth. Nobley led three Broncos in double figures in kills with 23, with Kaitlyn Oliver contributing 15 and O'Donnell 14. O'Donnell was money at the net with a team-high 52% attack percentage. She added a career-high eight blocks, five digs, two service aces and one assist.
“Maddy (O’Donnell) was consistent for us tonight and hit the ball well,” Garus said. “She was big at the net on the block and had some big kills as the match wore on including the clincher at the end.”
Nobley achieved her second 20/20 double-double of the season and ninth in her two-year career by adding 20 digs. Nobley hit 25 percent on the evening and also contributed two blocks and one assist.
Senior setter Sarah Baugh recorded her league-leading 12th double-double of the season with 50 assists and a career-high 16 digs.
Carly Scarbrough led Fresno State with 17 kills and a solid 39% hitting percentage. Zana Bowens also hurt the Broncos with 16 kills and 17 digs, while Aleisha Coates added 13 kills and 15 digs.
As a team, the Broncos finished the night hitting 23.6%, with a season-high 95 digs, a season-high-tying eight service aces and 11 blocks. Fresno State was 21.5% with 94 digs, eight blocks and four service aces.
Boise State advanced to 16-7 on the season and 8-3 in Mountain West Conference play, while Fresno State is now 12-12 and 4-6 in conference.
The Broncos will now have to summon up some energy for Saturday after expending all of it tonight. Boise State faces UNLV, the team that finished in a tie for second place with the Broncos in a preseason poll of the league's coaches. First serve in Las Vegas will be Saturday night at 6.