October 29, 2011

Career Efforts Not Enough As Tigers Fall In Five To UCSB

Stockton, Calif. - For the first time in 2011, the Pacific women's volleyball team suffered a five-game loss as the Tigers fell 3-2 to UC Santa Barbara (UCSB) on Saturday, October 29 at home in the Alex G. Spanos Center.  With the loss, the Tigers tenuous hold on second place slipped away as they fell to 6-5 in the Big West and 15-9 overall while the Gauchos improved to 13-11 on the year and 6-5 in the conference, as well.  

Pacific finds itself in a three-way tie for second in the Big West with the Gauchos and the Aggies of UC Davis with each team posting a 6-5 mark in Big West play.  Additionally, the win for UCSB earned the Gauchos a season sweep of the Tigers after taking a 3-1 decision a month prior in Santa Barbara.

Game scores for the match were: 25-23, 21-25, 22-25, 25-23, 15-13.

Throughout a night in which Pacific saw numerous career highs and team bests, the Tigers could never find a way to put the finishing touches on the visiting Gauchos who never quite went away until breaking through to steal the win.  For most of the match, Pacific seemed in control and well on its way to victory, only to see its momentum stymied and its late season run through the conference broken.

Leading 21-19 late in game one, Pacific let the opening game of the match slip through their hands on when the Gauchos used a 4-0 run to flip control of the frame.  After battling back to tie the game at 23-23, with kills from senior Samantha Misa and sophomore Jennifer Sanders, the Tigers could not halt the Gaucho advance as UCSB put the finishing touches on its rally by scoring the last two points of the frame on a kill by Leah Sully and a block by Hanna Nielson and Lily Lopez.

Down the first game, Pacific turned to its defense to get back into the match, posting seven team blocks, including four from junior Gabby Cowden, to overcome a .118 hitting performance in the frame.  Five of the Tigers' seven blocks came after trailing 16-12 midway through the game as Pacific's defensive pressure forced the Gauchos into 10 hitting errors in the game.

With the momentum of the match in hand, the Tigers stormed out to a 16-6 lead in game three looking to bury the Gauchos early.  However, Pacific could not put UCSB away quietly as the Gauchos rallied back to climb as close as two at 23-21 before the Tigers could finally end the game and take the 2-1 lead.

In game four, the Tigers would have their chance to bury the Gauchos for good after turning a 15-15 contest into a 21-16 lead behind four kills from Cowden, who finished the game with six of the Tigers' 16 kills in the frame.  However, just as they did in game three, UCSB rallied and outscored the Tigers 9-2 over the final 11 points of the game to knot the match at 2-2 and force the fifth and decisive game.

The final game of the night proved to be a battle with both teams trading points until a costly hitting error at 13-13 gave the Gauchos a match point that they would not waste.  The final two point margin in game five was the only time either team held a lead of more than one point in the game.

Overall, Pacific posted a season-best 17.5 blocks, the most in a single match for the Tigers since tallying 21 against Portland State on September 8, 2007.  Leading the way was Sanders who posted a career-high nine blocks on the night, the most in a single match for a Tiger since the 2007 season when Johanna Hilbers and Alexa Anderson each tallied nine against Portland State.  The sophomore finished the night just one block shy of her first career double-double as she added a team-best 16 kills on 37 attacks.  

Cowden finished just off of Sanders pace as the junior tied her career high with 13 kills on 27 attacks while tallying seven blocks, including two solo efforts.   Misa grabbed her fifth-straight double-double with 15 kills and 16 digs while also posting a career-high four blocks.  For junior Hannah Clancy, the Tigers' starting setter added a double-double as well with 43 assists and 16 digs while also posting four blocks.  Sophomore libero Koala Matsuoka had her finest defensive night as a Tiger as the Hawaii native tallied a career-high 24 digs. 

For the Mustangs, Kara Sherrard led all attackers with 17 kills while also posting 22 digs.  Sully added 14 kills and 19 digs to go along with three blocks while Stacey Schmidt grabbed 13 kills, 13 digs and four blocks.  Lopez hit at a .333 clip on the night as she added 11 kills while Nielson grabbed a double-double with 49 assists and 14 digs to go along with four blocks.

The Tigers will look to rebound on Friday, November 5 when they travel to UC Riverside to take on the Highlanders in Big West Conference action.  The match is scheduled for 7:00 pm.