ROCKLIN — The Westmont volleyball team (20-9, 14-3 GSAC) clinched their sixth consecutive trip to the NAIA National Tournament on Saturday, after defeating William Jessup (11-12, 10-6) in four sets.
Technically, due to tiebreaker scenarios, as soon as the Warriors won their second set of the match they clinched their spot in the tournament. However, winning the match after the fourth set allowed the club to truly celebrate the way it wanted to.
“We knew securing at least a fifth set meant we had it,” said Westmont head coach Ruth McGolpin, “but finishing it off with a win is definitely how you envision it. We are super stoked to be back in the tournament.”
In the first set, Westmont jumped out to a 5-1 advantage that stretched out to an 11-5 advantage before Jessup called their first timeout. The stoppage in play did little to slow down the road-Warriors however, who ran away with the first set by a score of 25-12.
“It was their senior night, so with that comes nerves, naturally. We had a feeling and a hope that we could get them on their heels quickly, and our serving was key in letting us do just that. They made some uncharacteristic mistakes, but really it was because we served the heck out of the ball.
“They were discombobulated and it threw them out of sync early, allowing us to make the first game pretty short.”
Westmont recorded five service aces in set one, including a pair each from Sydny Dunn and Lilian Reininga.
In the second set, Westmont led 17-11 and looked to be on their way to clinching early, but a furious rally from Jessup tied the game at 18. Then, with the game tied at 20, Jessup closed out the set on a 5-1 run to even the match.
In the third set, the sides remained deadlocked through an 8-8 tie, before a kill from Addie Paul sparked a 5-1 rally that saw Westmont begin to pull away with a 13-9 advantage. Jessup immediately responded and tied the game at 14, but the Warriors answered with a swing of their own led by Audrey Brown and Jessie Terlizzi to reclaim a 19-15 advantage.
Jessup never again tied the game, and the road-Warriors won game three 25-23 to take a 2-1 set advantage, and more importantly, secure their spot in the National Tournament.
“We were able to exhale a little bit going into set four,” admitted McGolpin. “In that third set we tried something different with our blocking scheme and it worked wonders. It was something we hadn’t practiced and it was really effective immediately. I thought the team showed great mental strength to be able to adjust like that on the fly and find success so quickly.”
In the fourth set, Westmont initially trailed 10-8 before kills from Patty Kerman and Lexi Malone bookended a four-point swing that allowed the club to jump on top 12-10. Jessup tied the game up once more at 13 all, but Westmont never again trailed as they ultimately fended off the home-Warriors by a score of 25-21 to secure a match victory.
“At the end of the day it was our serving that allowed us to win that match,” assured McGolpin. “When we serve and block well, we look like the team I think we are capable of being.”
Terlizzi led the club with 10 kills, while Kerman added nine, and Malone added eight. Kaili Hashimoto ended up collecting three service aces, as did Reininga, who also collected nine digs.
Defensively, Keelyn Kistner led the club with 17 digs, while Sara Krueger and Terlizzi each recorded three blocks. Dunn and Kistner tallied 22 and 18 assists each.
Westmont will have one more tune-up before the National Tournament when they travel to Santa Clarita to take on The Master’s in their final GSAC contest a week from today.
“Obviously they’re a big rival, and with their senior night on top of that, we’re expecting a big crowd,” said McGolpin. “Our expectation is that we’re going into a super rowdy gym and it’ll be a good opportunity for us to play in a hostile environment.”
Jacob Norling is the sports information assistant at Westmont College.