What better day than Alumni Weekend was it for San Jose State Spartans volleyball to snap a four-match losing streak?
San Jose State improved to 9-11 (2-6 Mountain West) on the season with a 3-0 shutout (25-17, 25-20, and 25-14) over the visiting Air Force Falcons at Spartan Gym on Saturday. Two freshmen led in kills for the Spartans, as middle blocker Thaliana Grajeda made 10 kills, and outside hitter Thelma Grétarsdóttir had nine. On defense, sophomore middle blocker Nandyala Gama had four assisted blocks, and Grajeda and Grétarsdóttir each had three.
“We were a lot more focused, and we maintained that focus,” commented San Jose State head coach Jolene Shepardson.
Air Force threatened early in the first set with a 6-3 lead that followed wide serves by outside hitters Giulia Gávio and Latahevai Lousi. San Jose State rallied for a 6-6 tie as Gama made a kill in the left gap. Then, Air Force middle blockers Abigail Miksch and Piper Heineck both had serves hit the net.
However, Air Force took back the lead 10-7 with kills by Miksch and Lauren Heldt, a service ace by Savannah Banyai, and an assisted block of Lousi by Heldt and Sarah Hellman. That still did not intimidate San Jose State, who scored six straight points to take a 13-10 lead and never looked back. San Jose State widened its lead to 23-16 as Miksch hit a serve wide and Grajeda got kills as far back of the court as legally possible.
In the next two sets, San Jose State never had a deficit again. Grétarsdóttir began the second set with two kills, but Air Force also got two points off a bad serve by Breann Robinson and block of Grétarsdóttir. At one point right before the score was tied 2-2, the ball bounced off Hellman and rolled around a basketball backboard that was pulled up, before Banyai set the ball back to San Jose State’s side. The two teams continued to stay close, before San Jose State took an 8-4 lead following three straight Air Force errors. San Jose State’s largest lead in the second set was 18-11, but Air Force shrank it to 18-17 thanks to four kills by outside hitter Alina Vanecek, a serve in the net by Lousi, and service ace by Banyai. However, errors by Heldt and Vanecek put San Jose State up by a wider 20-17 margin. San Jose State got the 25-20 win after Julia Boswell sent Gávio’s serve backwards right into a basket of volleyballs at an exit door.
It was a dominant start in the third set, as San Jose State ran away to a 5-0 lead off three Air Force errors and two San Jose State service aces. Air Force rallied to pull within 9-7, aided by a long serve by Gávio and error by Avery. However, Elizabeth Pennington served wide, and Shanleigh Conlan mishandled a set to widen San Jose State’s lead to 11-7. That lead became 20-12 as Air Force continued to send balls flying backwards and San Jose State kept finding gaps, en route to a 25-14 win.
At this point in the season, all six of San Jose State’s losses in Mountain West Conference play have been to teams with winning conference records, including defending champions Colorado State. Shepardson said that she sees the MW as a whole becoming more competitive in volleyball.
“It’s getting better, and I’m very proud to be in this conference,” said Shepardson.
Alumni also honored
During the second intermission, members of the 2001 Spartan team that made the NCAA Tournament and upset Santa Clara and other Spartan volleyball alumni were honored. From left to right: Millie (Swartzell) Crosby (lettered in 1995 and 1997), Danielle (Lewis) Rio (lettered in 2002 and 2003), and members of the 2001 team: Kimberly (Noble) Washington, Brianna (Blair) Partridge, Jeanine Haldi, Stephanie (Pascucci) Sloan, and then-associate head coach Gary Mano.
Then-head coach Craig Choate did not attend, due to being head coach at Southern Utah.
The current team and alumni took a photo after the game, as San Jose State tweeted: