Tigers Close Out 2013 With A 3-1 Win Over UTEP
Behind dominating efforts out of their two all-conference players, junior Gillian Howard and sophomore Kat Schulz, University of the Pacific women's volleyball team closed out 2013 with a 3-1 win over UTEP on Saturday, Nov. 30. The win pushed the Tigers to 15-15 on the year as Pacific closed the year at .500.
Set scores for the match were: 25-14, 25-21, 23-25, 25-22.
In one of the most dominant offensive performances ever in program history, Howard ended her third-season at Pacific with her finest performance as she pounded the Miners for 21 kills on .719 hitting while making just one mistake at the net. It was Howard's dominance late that held off the Miners as they tried to rally back from down 2-0 while it was Schulz' dominance early that set the Tigers up for success. Beginning the match with seven kills on eight swings in set one, Schulz completed the match with 18 kills on .304 hitting while adding 22 digs for her eighth double-double of the season.
Fittingly for the Tigers, while it was their most dominant players doing what they do best all match long it was their lone senior who put the finishing touches on the match in her final match as senior Megan Birch pounded down the final two kills of the night for the win. She would complete her final match with 13 kills while adding five digs and three blocks.
In the first two sets of the night the Tigers appeared to be well on their way to a dominating victory as they used a handful of bug runs to bury the Miners. In set one, the Tigers broke the set open with a 6-0 run that turned a 7-7 draw into a commanding 13-7 lead. During the run, the Tigers defense forced the Miners into three-straight mistakes as Pacific held UTEP to -.111 hitting in the frame. With the Miners missing, it was Schulz who found her groove early and often including picking up two of her seven kills in the final three points to snap a late comback attempt.
A set later it was more of the same as the Tigers used an early 8-0 spurt to set the tone once again. After seeing their lead cut to just two midway through the frame, Pacific broke the contest back open once again with four-consecutive points, including two from Schulz.
With the match in hand, Pacific found itself in a fight over the final two sets as the Miners came out of the break a revitatlized team on the defensive side of the ball. Using a stout backline defense, the Miners frustrated the Tigers hitters just long enough to take the set 25-23. Pacific had its chances to take the set late, leading 21-20, but a hitting error and a pair of blocks later turned the frame for UTEP.
Despite falling in the third, the Tigers would not be denied their season-ending victory as Pacific jumpout to a 7-1 lead with Howard posting four straight kills and five in six points to get the Tigers rolling. Just lise set two, the Miners would battle back late but a two point swing led by Schulz and Howard turned the tides back in Pacific's favor. Up 22-20, Pacific was able to trade points with the Miners before Birch ended the match in dominating fashion.
Throughout the night the Tigers' offense was led by freshman Jessica Diederich took the reigns for Pacific after an injury to captain Kimmy Whitson in warmups. Playing in the middle of the Tigers' offense, Diederich threw up a career-best 57 assists while also adding her first two career blocks and a pair of kills. Defensively the Tigers held the Miners to just .108 hitting behind 10.0 blocks and 83 digs led by freshman Lexi Elman's 24 and Schulz's 22.