Road Woes No More As Pacific Takes Down Santa Clara 3-1
Behind a dominating control of the net, the Pacific women's volleyball team came away with its first road win of the season on Thursday, Oct. 17, as the Tigers downed Santa Clara, 3-1. The win for Pacific moved its record to 11-8 overall and 4-4 in WCC action while the Broncos fell to 7-10 on the year and 2-6 in conference play.
Set scores for the match were: 24-26, 30-28, 25-19, 25-15.
In a match that started as a knock-down drag-out fight, the Tigers turned the close battle into a decisive victory en route to their first road win of the season. For Pacific, the match was all about establishing control of the net, a feat they were able to accomplish thanks to the play of their veterans once again.
Taking control of the net, Pacific used 15.0 total blocks to swing the tide of the match as junior Gillian Howard posted a career-high 11 blocks to lead the way. The 11 blocks marked the second time in three matches the junior had reached double-digits in blocks, a feat not accomplished in nearly a decade until she threw up 10 against Pepperdine two matches prior. In addition to Howard, sophomore Kimmy Whitson and senior Megan Birch each matched career best numbers in blocks as Whitson posted seven while Birch added in five.
For Birch, the career effort on the defensive side of the ball was just icing on the cake to what was a season-best performance offensively as the fourth-year outside pounded the Broncos for a match-best 18 kills on .500 hitting. Birch was the steady force for the Tigers throughout the night as Pacific's performance was up-and-down for most of the match until catching fire late in set three.
In the opening two sets, the two teams needed extra points to decide a winner as each team stole a set from the other to head into the break even at one set apiece. In set one, it was the Broncos playing the thief as the two teams traded 9-1 runs in the frame before Santa Clara ultimately put Pacific away. A set later, it was a late rally by the Tigers that stunned the Broncos as Pacific fought off three set points. Pacific trailed for almost the entire set before taking the lead at 24-23 for their first attempt at the win. It would take three tries for the Tigers to ultimately take the win as it was senior Jennifer Sanders who came up big with a pair of kills to ultimately swing the set.
With the match even, the Tigers used the 10-minute break to readjust their efforts; turning the momentum of set two into a convincing match victory. Up just one midway through set three at 17-16, the Tigers broke open the contest with a 4-0 run as Pacific's serving game pushed the Broncos out of system. The final nails were driven in with a pair of aces by freshman Lexi Elman as the first-year Tiger was Pacific's most effective server all night long.
The run in set three continued into set four as Pacific rolled off 10-straight points behind the serve of Elman to lead 10-1. After a brief hiccup in the middle of the set allowed the Broncos to close within four, the Tigers buried Santa Clara under a constant attack from the pins three kills from Birch. Additionally, the Tigers block was at its best in the final set as Pacific posted six blocks including five from Howard.
Outside of Birch's season-best performance, sophomores Kat Schulz and Anne-Sophie Bauer each tallied 11 kills for the Tigers as Pacific's pins posted 40 of the team's 53 kills. Sanders, ended her night with five kills, but her first of the night in set one was a milestone for the elder Tiger it marked her 1,000 career kill. With the kill she became just the 20th Tiger in program history to reach the mark. In the back row, Pacific's defense was led by Elman with 23 digs, her third 20+ dig effort in four matches as the Tigers' libero.
The Broncos were led by Taylor Milton with 18 kills. However, the junior also committed 13 errors and hit jut .109 as Pacific held Santa Clara to .172 hitting.
Pacific will look to make it two in a row on the road when it travels to San Franciscoto take on the Dons at 1 p.m. Saturday.