SAN DIEGO — It was the start of a new season, so to speak.
If so, the San Diego State women's volleyball team yearns to turn back time, one last time.
The Aztecs opened Western Athletic Conference play by losing 15-4, 15-17, 15-4, 2-15, 15-10 to sixth-ranked Brigham Young on Thursday night at Peterson Gym.
The match, which ended in the new no side-outs format, was a peculiar display of momentum changes.
BYU would win a game only to come back out on the court and face a rejuvenated SDSU squad.
This trend went on until the Aztecs (7-10, 0-1) ran out of chances.
"It seems like this happens every time we play here," said outside hitter Shannan Egbert, who led BYU (15-1, 1-0) with 22 kills. "It's real back-and-forth, we'll come out and play great, they'll turn around and come back out fired up. . . . It's always like that here. Maybe it's this gym."
Maybe the players have a little something to do with it.
This SDSU team boasts five starters who upset the Cougars last year in the opening round of the NCAA playoffs. Four returning starters from that BYU team remember that all too clearly.
Unfortunately for SDSU, the deciding fifth game will be awfully difficult to forget. Using the quick rally scoring, the Aztecs fell behind, 9-2, and never regrouped.
"We didn't pass well," said SDSU Coach Rudy Suwara, who otherwise was pleased with his team's progress. "But their setter was so great. They found a way to win. In that last game, she'd just set the ball anywhere she wanted. And she back-set so well."
Although a victory over BYU, which beat highly regarded Nebraska earlier in the year, would have been a major achievement for SDSU, not all the Aztecs were surprised to get so close.
"Not at all," said Jennifer Miller a 6-foot-1 middle blocker who played a major role in the fourth game, which SDSU won. "All week were were saying we could beat BYU."
Miller, who had eight kills, 12 digs and two service aces, said the intensity expired in the final game.
BYU was playing without its top-player, Tea Nieminen, the Cougars' only senior originally on the roster and a member of Finland's national team in the off-season. Nieminen, a 5-11 outside hitter, injured her knee before the season began and decided to redshirt this year.
Egbert said the Cougars gained confidence early without her and the young team--they have a freshman setter and two sophomores starting--has learned to play without her.
"We won a small tournament in Idaho in last August and we gained a lot of confidence there," she said.