On Friday night, the Westmont volleyball team (17-9, 11-3) suffered a sweep at the hands of No. 19 OUAZ (20-2, 12-1) that put the Spirit one-and-a-half games ahead of Westmont for first-place in the Golden State Athletic Conference.
The Spirit, after taking both ends of a season series from Westmont, now own the tie-breaker over the Warriors with just two weeks remaining in the regular season.
However, the Warriors have a two-game lead for second place in the conference, which looms large given the top-two seeds in the GSAC receive an automatic bid into the NAIA National Tournament.
“OUAZ is a good team,” Westmont head coach Ruth McGolpin said. “They’re ranked where they should be, and I’m happy for them. It’s good for the conference to have somebody ranked that high.
“Obviously we didn’t play to our potential, but you can’t take anything away from them. It’s been a long time since we’ve been swept in this gym.”
In the first set, the Spirit took an 11-6 lead into the Warriors’ first timeout, largely due to shaky defensive play from Westmont. At that point in the match, the Warriors had already committed six errors (four attacking errors and two service errors).
Following the timeout, Westmont momentarily halted OUAZ’s momentum with a three-point swing to make things 12-10. From there, however, OUAZ went on an 8-2 run to put the set out of reach, and ultimately took the game 25-17.
The Warriors were out-killed 13-4 during the set.
In set two, the same trend continued with OUAZ jumping out to a 6-3 lead. Then, the Warriors responded with a five-point run led by excellent serving from Sydny Dunn. The run, which gave the Warriors an 8-6 lead, caused OUAZ to call their first timeout.
Out of the timeout however, the Warriors’ lack of communication on defense allowed OUAZ to claim a handful of crucial points in the middle of the set. After a ball landed in-between a trio of Warriors for the second time in three possessions, McGolpin called a timeout with her club trailing 14-13.
Slowly, OUAZ began to pull away, stretching the lead to 20-17 before McGolpin called her final timeout of the set. The Warriors showed grit in what felt like a do-or-die moment in the match, with a 3-1 run that brought them within a point, and forced the Spirit to use their final timeout.
Out of the timeout, Patty Kerman set Murchison Gym on fire with a kill to tie things up, and the energy from the crowd stayed high until the final moment of the set.
The clubs traded blows to a 26-26 tie, before the Warriors conceded a pair of kills to the Spirit, as they dropped a gut-wrenching second set 28-26.
“There were some tough calls that didn’t go our way,” noted McGolpin, “but we have to be able to fight through things like that and we didn’t. We showed some fight there to get back in that game, but we needed to play with that energy all night if we were going to compete with those guys.”
In the third set, the two sides remained knotted through single-digits, before OUAZ went on a 5-1 run to take a 15-11 advantage going into McGolpin’s first timeout. By the time the head coach used her final timeout, the deficit grew to 20-14.
Ultimately, a game-saving run never came for the Warriors, who suffered a 25-16 loss to end the match.
“It just didn’t seem like we had a whole lot of fight left after set two,” said McGolpin, “and that can’t be the case. We have to be loud and be ourselves, but stay relaxed. However, you can’t really say a whole lot about this one besides the fact that Ottawa was a solid team.
“They really didn’t make a whole lot of mistakes, except in the first set when we made a ton of mistakes too. Ottawa played great and when we had chances to get back in the game, we beat ourselves. That isn’t a winning formula.”
Jacob Norling is the sports information assistant at Westmont College.