Balanced Attack Leads The Tigers Past NIU

Kimmy Whitson - Photo courtesy: NIU Athletics
Kimmy Whitson - Photo courtesy: NIU Athletics
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Decals, Ill. - Rebounding from disappointment earlier in the day, the Tigers took care of business to close out the NIU Invitational on Saturday night as Pacific downed the host Huskies, 3-1. The Tigers closed out the first weekend of action 2-1 while the Huskies moved to 1-1 on the young season as they will play their final match of the tournament on Sunday against Iowa.

Set scores for the match were: 29-27, 21-25, 25-17, 25-21.

Just hours after falling in a marathon match to Iowa, the Tigers were back on the court for the second half of their day-night doubleheader at the invitational taking on a fresh NIU squad playing its first match of the day. Despite the double duty on the day, the Tigers had enough left in the tank to find a way to get it done against the Huskies as young and old contributed to the cause. 

After finding her groove late in the Tigers' loss to Iowa, redshirt-freshman Alex Holt took control of the nightcap for Pacific, stepping up to carry the load when junior ace Lexi Elman was slow out of the gate. Coming alive on the rightside, Holt put together a stellar showing in just her third game as the young arm led the way with 13 kills on a stellar .524 hitting. 

Even with Holt leading the way, it was the Tigers' vets that got the ball rolling early as junior Alicja Wilk commanded the middle early in set one with a flurry of attacks that led to five in the frame. Quickly starting, the Tigers ran out to a six point lead behind nearly perfect hitting from all angles. However, the easy night would turn rough as the Huskies erased the Tigers' cushion with a 4-0 run before finally tying and taking the lead late at 24-23. Facing set point, it was Wilk that saved the chance for the Tigers with her fourth kill. She would save the day twice more with a block and another kill before the Tigers turned the tides with three-straight points to capture the close set.

Using the momentum from closing the gap in set one, the Huskies ran off with set two late behind a 5-0 run. Leading 17-16, the Huskies served the Tigers out of system and took advantage of the scrambles to push ahead 22-16. From there, the Huskies put the set away to send the match into the locker rooms knotted at 1-1. 

Rejuvenated by the break, the Tigers came out firing as fresh legs ran the Tigers out to an almost insurmountable eight-point lead midway through the frame. Spreading the ball around, the Tigers offense found holes in the Huskies' defense as Pacific hit .407 in the set led by Holt's five kills on just six attacks. Her kills came in spurts throughout the frame, culminating in the final kill of the set as she called for the ball a second time and put it down with authority after getting blocked the point before. With Holt swinging freely, the pressure on Elman eased as well as the junior came up with four kills on seven attempts while Wilk added four more kills in the middle.

Leading 2-1, the Tigers looked to put the match away in the fourth set this time using their defense to sustain finish the Huskies off. Alternating points early, the Tigers found themselves in a three-point hole midway through the set as NIU rolled off four-straight points to turn a 14-13 hole into a 17-14 lead on the serve of Anna Brereton. Despite the sudden deficit, the Tigers did not let the set slip away like the second set of the night as Pacific called a timeout before battling back with a 6-1 run that turned the set and the match for the Tigers. Pacific would end the night with a 4-0 run as Maycie LaBass came up with two of her four kills on successive points before Wilk ended the night with a block and a kill for the Tigers. 

Overall. Holt led the way offensively as Pacific hit .322 as a team. Right behind Holt, Elman and Wilk each ended the night with 11 kills with Wilk posting her 11 kills on 20 attacks (.400). Elman came up with a team-best 11 digs to finish off her third-straight double-double while senior setter Kimmy Whitson just missed a double-double of her own with eight kills and 44 assists to go along with three aces, six digs and four blocks. Both Elman and Whitson were named to the all-tournament team at the finish of the Tigers' match.

On the other side  of the net, the Huskies were led by T'ara Austin who posted a match-best 16 kills to go along with seven digs and three blocks. Mary Grace Kelly added 13 kills for the Huskies while Jenna Radtke posted seven kills to go along with a match-high six blocks.

Pacific is back on the road in just under a week as the Tigers head to the SDSU/USD Invitational in San Diego, Calif. The Tigers start their weekend against the Aztecs of San Diego State on Friday, Sept. 4 at 7:00 pm PT.