Cedar City, Utah - With a match against their former Big West rival Utah State at the Crystall Inn Thunderbird Invitational, the Tigers were at their best as they swept away the Aggies, 3-0, on Friday, August 26. The win for the Tigers was their second of the tournament and second of the season while the Aggies fell to 0-1 with the loss.
Game scores for the match were: 25-13, 25-18, 25-17.
Playing just four hours after their first match of the tournament, the Tigers stepped back on the court and immediately reasserted their dominance, running the Aggies off the court to pick up a convincing victory. Opening the match, the Tigers jumped out to a quick lead at 8-3 as they went to their senior Samantha Misa early and often as she scored four of Pacific's first five offensive points. The five point lead quickly ballooned to 10 as the Pacific attack was relentless from pin-to-pin exploiting the holes throughout the defense to storm to a 12 point win. Using the holes in the defense, junior Gabby Cowden was at her best as the middle blocker tagged the Aggie defense for five kills on eight swings without making an error in the game. As a team, the Tigers hit .432 in the game while holding the Aggies to just a .129 hitting percentage.
After playing a nearly flawless first game, the Tigers considered their onslaught in the second frame as they forced the Aggies to attempt to cover more options than they had blockers for. An early 8-3 and 15-10 lead would be enough for the Tigers in the game as the Aggies attempts at slowing down the Tigers late would be to no avail as Pacific's balanced attack kept the Aggies on their heels. Taking the reigns in the second game was sophomore Jennifer Sanders, who returned to the middle to start the contest, as she posted five kills on nine attacks with no errors while also tallying two blocks. Along her side, sophomore Megan Birch made her presence felt at the pins as the Monroe, Wash. native tallied four kills on six swings.
With the sweep in sight and the match on the line, the Tigers proved that the first two games were no fluke as they used a nine point run in the first minutes of the game to put the Aggies away for good. Offensively, the game was controlled by their freshman Hanna Levanen, who put down a game-high six kills on 12 swings. Again, Sanders proved to be hard to stop as she tacked on four more kills in just seven swings while staying errorless on the evening.
For the Tigers, the match was dominated not only by their balanced offense but also by their persistent commitment to defense as the team tallied 20 digs in each of the three games while adding six total team blocks. Lead by senior Rebekah Torres' match-high 24 digs, the Tigers saw every player on the scoresheet record a dig to help hold the Aggies to just .083 hitting for the contest.
"Here's a team that beat Hawai'i last year to get into the NCAAs, their pins are very good and it just shows you that when you play the game smart, take smart swings and make adjustments what you can do," said coach Gibbons. "We made the middles work really hard and we saw more and more creases on the pins.
Offensively, three Tigers posted a match-high 11 kills for the match as Misa, Sanders and Levanen all hit the double-digit mark. For Misa, the senior tallied her second-consecutive double-double after adding 13 digs to her stat line. Levanen just missed her out on a double-double for the second match as she finished one dig short with nine total. In the middle, Sanders completed her night with 11 kills in 20 swings with no errors while her partner in the middle, Cowden, was just as good tallying eight kills in 16 swings without an error. Orchestrating the attack was junior Hannah Clancy who finished with 43 assists and five digs while adding a trio of kills and blocks.
On the other side of the net, the Aggies had no answer for the Tigers as Pacific held Utah State's all-american, Liz McArthur, to just nine kills on 39 attack with seven errors. No Aggie reached double figures for the match.
"Utah State is a very good team and this was a glimpse of what we can do and what we have been doing in practice for the past few weeks," said Gibbons after the match.
The Tigers will close out play at the invitational on Saturday, August 27 when they take on the host Southern Utah Thunderbirds at 11:30 am PST. The match will be the final match of the tournament for the Tigers while the Thunderbirds will play a final match later in the evening.