Stanford, Calif. - Facing off against a future WCC foe, the Pacific women's volleyball team once again persevered in the face of adversity to down Santa Clara, 3-2, on Saturday, September 8 at the Stanford Invitational. The Tigers won their second match of the tournament and improved to 8-0 on the year while the Broncos fell to 0-2 in Stanford and 6-3 overall. The match was Pacific's third five-setter of the season as the Tigers moved to 3-0 when facing defeat.
Set scores for the match were: 25-19, 24-26, 25-18, 18-25, 15-9.
In what easily could have been a quick three-set victory for the Tigers, Pacific found itself in a battle with the Broncos for five sets as Santa Clara went down swinging at every turn to push the Tigers to the brink. However, like they have shown early and often, the 2012 Tigers would not be denied as they came up big in set five to put the match away. As they had done in their previous two fifth sets, the Tigers jumped out to a big early lead and never looked back to secure the win. In the set, the Tigers peppered the Broncos from the pins as junior Megan Birch and freshman Kat Schulz tagged Santa Clara for seven kills in the frame to dominate the play.
Prior to the fifth set controlled by the pins, the Tigers were led by their sophomore in the middle as Gillian Howard put together the most complete match of her young career to show what the Broncos would face for the next two years in the West Coast Conference. Dominating the middle, Howard posted 14 kills on 24 attacks with no errors to hit a career-high .583. Even more special was her play on the defensive side of the net as she created a wall to post a career-best nine blocks to help the Tigers outblock the Broncos, 14-to-12.
It was Howard's inspired play that got the Tigers off to a hot start in the match as Pacific cruised to an eary 25-19 win in set one behind six kills and two blocks from their sophomore. For the Tigers, the turning point in the set came at 14-14 when they rolled off a 6-2 run to take control of the set.
With the one set to none lead, Pacific appeared to be on cruise control, storming out to a big lead in the second set to put the Broncos on their heels. The early lead would hold for the Tigers all the way until 24-17 when out of no where, the offensive machine that was the Pacific attack, hit a wall which changed the course of the match. With seven set points, the Tigers were unable to finish off the Broncos as Santa Clara, behind the serve of junior setter Alyssa Anderson, rallied for nine-straight points to stun the Tigers and steal the win. The loss in the set snapped a 16-set winning streak for Pacific and set the stage for a long afternoon.
Tied at one a piece, the Tigers shook off the shock of their loss in the second set and buried the Broncos early the third set behind an 8-2 run after Santa Clara had pulled with in one at 7-6. The set saw the Tigers return to the middle in Howard, who posted four kills and three blocks in the frame, while also seeing Birch emerge from a slow start to pound down seven kills on 13 attempts.
Flipping the script in the fourth, the Broncos grabbed the early lead against the Tigers and never looked back as Pacific closed to within two late at 20-18, but never closer as Anderson served the final 5-0 run by the Broncos. The momentum from set four would prove to be of no use for Santa Clara as the Tigers dominated the fifth and final set to take the match.
Overall, Birch led all attackers with 21 kills as the junior outside tied her career high for kills set against Idaho to begin the season. She finished hitting .288 in the match but also showed her presence defensively with four blocks. On the other side of the pins, Schulz finished with 15 kills to also tie a career best mark while adding a career-best 21 digs to post her third double-double of the year. After Howard's 14, junior Jennifer Sanders ended her afternoon with 10 kills on 24 attempts while also posting five blocks and one dig. Senior setter Hannah Clancy picked up her fifth double-double of the year with 56 assists and 14 digs while also tallying three blocks, one kill and one ace. The defensive specialists along the Tigers' backline finished the afternoon led by senior Koala Matsoka's match-high 23 digs while freshman Mia Feiner tallied 12.
For the Broncos, both Lexi Williamson and Megan Anders tallied 15 kills on the afternoon with Anders adding eight blocks from the middle. Taylor Milton posted 14 kills and 16 digs to post the double-double while Haley Camerson grabbed 11 kills on .455 hitting while posting three blocks.
The Tigers will look for their third tournament title as they take on the No. 8 Stanford Cardinal at 6:00 pm at the Stanford Invitational. The match will decide the tournament title as both teams enter the night 2-0 on the weekend.