After a tough loss at San Diego State, the Fresno State volleyball team returned home to the Save Mart Center for its final home game of the season Saturday afternoon, facing the Air Force Falcons.
The Bulldogs swept the Falcons in three straight sets, 25-23, 25-13 and 25-22, breaking a six-game losing streak and giving the Bulldog seniors a memorable last home game.
Before the match, three seniors were honored. Outside hitter Montez Uigaese, setter Madelyn Halteman and middle blocker McKenzie Kramer were recognized for their time at Fresno State.
The first set got underway with the Bulldogs taking a lead. However, the Falcons came back and tied the set quickly. No team had a real advantage throughout the set, with both teams battling for every point and no team taking real control.
The Bulldogs regained the lead toward the end of the set, then added to their lead and gained momentum at a crucial time. Air Force took advantage of an error by the Bulldogs, gaining momentum and adding three unanswered points to bring them within a point of the Bulldogs.
Fresno State managed to take the momentum back and put the last two points on the board, taking the set first set 25-23.
In the second set, the Bulldogs came out strong, forcing errors and getting kills that turned into points for the ‘Dogs. With a 10-point lead, the Bulldogs managed the rest of the set, committing fewer errors and hitting the ball well to create opportunities.
The Falcons tried to mount a comeback against the Bulldogs, scoring five unanswered points to close in on the Bulldogs’ lead. However, the Bulldogs curbed the Falcons’ rally, and the lead proved to be too much for the Falcons. The Bulldogs took the second set 25-13.
With two sets in the bag, the Bulldogs were looking to continue their dominance from the previous set, although the Falcons had different plans and were not going to make it easy for the ‘Dogs.
A back-and-forth struggle ensued, with both teams getting the lead and losing it early in the third set.
The Bulldogs took a small lead and kept it throughout the rest of the set, but the Falcons were close behind, keeping within a point or two of the Bulldogs. Fresno State took advantage of several mistakes made by Air Force and added more points to its lead.
Fresno State got to the match point with a comfortable five point lead, but the Falcons pushed to prevent the ‘Dogs from winning and scored three unanswered points. After a timeout called by Bulldogs head coach Jonathan Winder, Fresno State scored the final point, winning the set 25-22 and the match 3-0.
For the Bulldogs, Uigaese had 11 kills; Halteman had 16 assists and four digs; and outside hitter Desiree Sukhov had eight kills and six digs in the match.
After the match, Winder said his middles were a lot better, and they were able to find space and connected better with each other. Winder also noted the positive impact the seniors had on the team.
“I’m really proud of how they [seniors] played today. It was an emotional game … they are three people who are really good people and will be lifelong positive ambassadors of our program,” Winder said. “Winning is fun, and it helps build confidence … Tonight we were able to find a little more of our rhythm and figure out a little bit more of our identity.”