No. 15 Westmont (8-5, 2-0) fed off the energy of a packed Murchison Gym Saturday night and defeated Vanguard (4-1, 1-1) in four sets.
The Warriors bested the Lions in four by a score 25-17, 21-25, 25-21 and 25-19 in the Montecito match.
“The fans definitely earned us some points,” said Westmont head coach Ruth McGolpin. “They were excited tonight, and their excitement allowed us to have some of our own. It was so nice to have such a big turnout.”
In the first set, Westmont gave the packed house something to cheer about immediately, as the club opened with a 4-0 run highlighted by a pair of kills by Phoebe Minch. The Lions were quick to quiet the roar of the crowd, going on a 6-2 run to tie things at six apiece.
Clinging on to an 11-10 lead, Westmont had a three-point rally featuring kills by Sara Krueger, Jessie Terlizzi and Taylor Distelberg to take a four-point lead going into a Vanguard timeout.
The next time the Lions took a timeout, they were trailing Westmont 20-15, thanks to NAIA All-American Lexi Malone’s first kill of the season.
Moments later, Westmont took set one 25-17. Minch collected five kills during the set while Terlizzi added four.
“One of the things I kept telling the setters was ‘you have to feed the middles’,” said McGolpin. “Both Sara and Lexi caught fire as the night went on and that was awesome. Their play opened things up for Audrey, Phoebe, and Jessie later on.”
The two sides traded the first 18 points of the second set, with neither getting breathing room before they hit double-digits. The stalemate continued as the score was tied 14-14 before Vanguard scored twice to take a 16-14 lead. Following a service ace that made the score 18-15 in favor of Vanguard, McGolpin called a timeout.
Down 23-18, Westmont went on a three-point run thanks in large part to excellent serving by Minch, causing the Lions to call a timeout.
Out of the timeout, Westmont gave a point back to the Lions on a free-ball that fell between a pair of Warriors, and one serve later, Vanguard took the second set, 25-21.
Westmont opened up the third set on a 4-0 run thanks to a pair of kills by Audrey Brown and another by Malone. Vanguard pulled with one when the score was 11-10, before a 5-1 run by the Warriors built the lead back to 16-11.
Vanguard pulled within two at 21-19, but Westmont ultimately rode one last rally to a 25-21 set win and a 2-1 advantage. Malone led the Warriors with five kills during the set.
In set four, Westmont opened things up with a 5-0 run, but saw its lead disappear when Vanguard got hot and tied things at seven soon after. After finding themselves down 8-7, McGolpin called the first timeout of the set.
Out of the timeout, Westmont responded with a 6-2 run to take back the lead going into a Lions timeout. Up 13-10, Westmont kept its foot on the gas and eventually built the lead to 20-15 after another kill by Brown.
Up 24-19, the crowd rose to its feet and erupted when Minch’s 13th kill of the match ended the night, and gave Westmont a 3-1 win.
“We are stoked to get out of this week 3-0, and 2-0 in conference play,” said McGolpin. “It has been a hard-fought week, and tonight it was really nice to get a few of our key players back.”
Terlizzi tallied 13 kills, along with Malone who added 10 of her own. Five Warriors collected at least eight kills during the match.
“It is important to spread the offense,” said McGolpin. “We had four middles playing with Lexi, Sara, Taylor and Audrey, so we had to adjust our lineup quite a bit. Specifically, I thought Audrey Brown stepped up big and got us some huge kills.”
Keelyn Kistner and Sydny Dunn each had 21 assists, while libero Lilian Reininga led the club with 22 digs in what McGolpin called Reininga’s best game so far at Westmont.
“The 6-2 offense is our bread and butter here at Westmont, so having both of our setters back tonight was a big lift,” McGolpin said. “Having that 6-2 offense is a staple of our game, and tonight it allowed us to spread the wealth offensively.”
The club will now spend the rest of the month on the road, playing four-consecutive GSAC matches away from Murchison Gym before returning home Oct. 1.
First up on the agenda is a trip to Arizona next weekend, where the club will take on Arizona Christian and OUAZ on back-to-back nights.
“We have to continue to push ourselves and work hard,” said McGolpin, “because the season never gets any easier. Being on the road the entire rest of the month will be a test, and we’ll do our best to be ready for it.”
Jacob Norling is a Westmont College sports information assistant.