An electric environment told the story on Saturday night in Santa Barbara when Westmont Volleyball (7-2, 1-0 GSAC) opened Golden State Athletic Conference play with a four-set win over The Master’s Mustangs (4-3, 0-1).
The Mustang-faithful set the tone by pouring in nearly an hour before the first serve, but ultimately, it was the Westmont crowd that flooded the floor after the Warriors quieted the Mustangs in Murchison Gym.
“That crowd was great tonight,” said Westmont head coach Ruth McGolpin. “We haven’t had a crowd this great since 2019. The Master’s brought a great crowd and that made it super fun. Our fans came out big as well, and it was a great environment to play in a game in.”
The night began with a packed Murchison Gym aching for bragging rights, with each team’s student sections erupting with every individual point. The first set began with a block followed by a kill from Lexi Malone, sending the Westmont faithful into a frenzy.
However, the Mustangs quickly tied things, allowing their traveling party to quickly raise their own volume. Halfway through the set, The Master’s began to pull away, riding a four-point run to a 13-9 lead before Westmont’s first timeout.
Out of the timeout, The Master’s continued their run, going up 18-10 before McGolpin used her final timeout. The road fans grew only louder when The Master’s took the first set by a score of 25-16.
“Obviously, we had nerves in set one,” shared McGolpin. “We were playing our first home match, our first conference match, and we were playing in a crowd like that. We were nervous and overly-pumped and that game got away from us.”
In the second set, it was the home crowd’s turn to even the playing field. Following an initial 5-5- tie, Westmont went on a 10-4 run, causing The Master’s to call a timeout with the Warriors leading 15-9. Out of the timeout, Westmont stayed hot, eventually causing the Mustangs to call another timeout, this time trailing 22-15.
Eventually, the Master’s cut the deficit to 24-20, leading McGolpin to use a timeout so the Warriors could reset. Then, out of the timeout, an attacking error from TMU allowed the Warriors to tie the match with a 25-20 win.
“We regrouped, and kept composed,” reflected McGolpin. “We kept on them consistently. Our blocking came through, our passing got a lot better, and as the match went on, we started to serve tougher and get them out of their system.”
In the third set, neither team would allow the other an opportunity to blink. The first timeout of the set was called when the score was 17-16 in favor of TMU, and by that point, neither team had taken larger than a two-point lead for the entire set.
Out of the timeout, the Warriors responded with a pair of kills and an ace, allowing them to tie the set at 20. Tied at 22, Murchison Gym exploded when Ashley Boswell collected her sixth kill of the match and gave the Warriors a 23-22 lead. It was the Warriors’ first lead since the score was 16-15.
After a Master’s timeout, the home crowd grew even louder when Taylor Distelberg recorded her third block of the evening, putting the Warriors on the brink of a 2-1 advantage. After The Master’s second timeout in as many points, the Mustangs came away with a kill to cut the lead to 24-23.
Then, the crowd let out a roar and a sigh of relief simultaneously, as the Mustangs committed an attacking error to give the Warriors a 25-23 win and a 2-1 set advantage.
“Early on in the match I told the team, ‘this is our house’,” nodded McGolpin. “We needed to control the tempo of the game. We had to control our side, be patient with our blocking, and do what we do best. That’s what happened as the game got going.”
After neither team took as big as a three-point lead in the third set, Westmont opened up the fourth set on a 6-1 run, led by Malone who collected a pair of thunderous kills. An emphatic Westmont crowd could see the finish line with the club leading 8-2 going into a Master’s timeout.
From that point on, all the Mustangs could do was trade points with the Warriors, who steadily marched towards the magic number. Up 18-12, Distelberg’s fifth kill of the match put the Warriors up a set-high seven at 19-12.
At that point, the Mustangs used their final timeout, but as all in attendance could see, the match was headed for the finish line. An electric GSAC opener came to an end on a TMU service error, making the final score 25-17 in favor of Westmont, who won three consecutive sets to close-out the night.
“We didn’t start great from the jump, but we’ve been finishing great as we’ve gotten going,” said McGolpin, whose team has now won five straight.
Terlizzi collected a match-high 14 kills, while libero Kaili Hashimoto recorded a match-high 20 digs. Freshman Alexa Shiner led the Warriors with 22 assists in her Murchison Gym debut, while senior Keelyn Kistner added in 17 as well.
The Warriors also collected 10 blocks on the evening, with Malone leading the club with three of her own. Kistner and Phoebe Minch each recorded a pair of service aces. Minch also contributed with 17 digs and nine kills.
“We rode the Jessie-train tonight,” said McGolpin. “She got super fired up, had a ton of kills, and had a .323 attack percentage. That’s pretty impressive.
“Overall, our right sides did a good job, and both opposites kept us in the game, offensively. As the match wore on, everybody started to contribute offensively. It was a great team-showing.”
The Warriors return to the court next Friday night in Glendale when they take on Arizona Christian at 6:00 p.m.
Jacob Norling is the sports information assistant at Westmont College.