Santa Barbara, Calif. - For the 12th time in 2012, the Pacific women's volleyball team went to five sets against their opponents as the Tigers won, 3-2, over UC Santa Barbara on Friday, November 9. The win for the Tigers was their eighth in five-set matches as Pacific improved to 19-8 on the year and 7-7 in the Big West. The Gauchos fell to 13-15 on the year and 6-7 in the Big West as Pacific leapfrogged UCSB in the standings.
Set scores for the match were: 19-25, 25-22, 19-25, 25-17, 21-19.
In a reversal of fortunes from their match a month prior, the Tigers played the part of the Gauchos from their first meeting and turned a 2-1 deficit into a 3-2 victory on the road. For the Tigers, the come-from-behind victory was yet another hard-fought win in a season full of nail-bitters as Pacific surpassed its win total from 2011 and matched their most wins in a season in over a decade.
For both teams, the fifth and final set was a microcosm of the match in general as the finale proved to be a seesaw battle of epic proportions. In the sprint to 15, the two teams exchanged big runs and minor barbs en route to a set that featured 10 tie scores and four lead changes and 10 extra-points of play. In the beginning, the Tigers appeared as if they would cruise to victory in the fifth as Pacific opened a big 13-8 lead on the Gauchos behind a balanced attack and the block of their underclassmen, led by sophomore Gillian Howard.
With victory within reach, the Tigers saw the Gauchos storm back into the match with a 6-0 run off the serve of Leah Sully. The six-straight points gave the Gauchos the first match-point of the night, but a kill from freshman Kat Schulz kept the Tigers' hopes alive. From there, the Tigers would earn four match points of their own, only to see the Gauchos fight back each time to stave off elimination. Tied at 18-18, the Tigers once again fell victim to Sully as an attack by UCSB's top hitter forced Pacific to the brink once again with their second match-point of the set.
With the match on the line, the Tigers again looked toward the middle for support where Howard was waiting to save the match. On three-straight points Howard proved to be the difference maker as the young middle blocker posted a kill at 19-18 to even the match for Pacific while posting two blocks alongside of her freshmen teammates, Schulz and Anne-Sophie Bauer, to end the match.
When it mattered most, the Tigers saw their underclassmen step up to lead the way as Howard posted three kills and four blocks in the fifth set alone while Bauer added three kills and two blocks and Schulz posted one kill and two blocks.
Prior to the fifth-set, the two teams traded sets as the Gauchos took the opening set of the night behind a late 6-2 run. In set two, the Tigers, playing from behind most of the frame, came on late and won three of the final four points of the set to even the match at 1-1. A set later, the Gauchos were back in control as they ran out to a six point lead at 15-9 and never looked back on their way to their second set win of the night. Playing from behind once again, Pacific went back to work as the Tigers built an early three point lead at 9-6 and slowly pulled away throughout the rest of the set to force a fifth set.
Overall, the night was again a battle of attrition as both teams came away with over 100 digs as the Tigers matched their total from the first match with 103 while the Gauchos posted 104. For Pacific, five players reached double-digits in digs led by senior setter Hannah Clancy who posted 22 digs to go along with 52 assists. Just behind Clancy, Bauer added 18 digs to go along with a career-best 18 kills for her third-consecutive double-double while her classmate Schulz grabbed 11 to go along with 15 kills . Freshman Mia Fiener added 17 digs to Pacific's totals while senior Libero Koala Matsuoka posted 14. Not to be outdone, Howard posted a career-best eight on the night.
At the net, the Tigers defensively posted 12 blocks as Howard tied a career high with nine blocks as she posted her third nine-block night of the season. Bauer added five for the Tigers while Schulz finished with four. Offensively, outside of Bauer and Schulz, the Tigers' juniors came away with double-digit kills as Megan Birch posted 15 kills while Jennifer Sanders tallied 12.
For the Gauchos, Sully continued her unbelievable play against the Tigers as the junior outside posted 26 kills and 28 digs for her 21st double-double of the year. Freshman Libero Taylor Formico posted 32 digs in the match as she set a new Big West record for digs in a single-season with 660 in her first year of collegiate volleyball.
Pacific will look to keep its winning-streak going at Cal Poly on Saturday, November 10 when the Tigers take on the Mustangs in their final regular season road match of 2012. The two teams will meet at Mott Gym at 7:00 pm.