By JACOB NORLING
WESTMONT COLLEGE WRITER
GLENDALE, Ariz. — Both clubs came into Friday night riding three-game winning streaks, but it was #25 Westmont (9-5, 3-0) that carried that total up to four after defeating Arizona Christian (9-2, 0-2) in five sets. Westmont won the match by a score of 17-25, 25-14, 22-25, 25-14, and 16-14.
“We have played more matches than most of our opponents,” said Westmont head coach Ruth McGolpin, “and a lot of them have happened to go five sets. We have played so many tight and long matches against good teams, and different styles of teams. For us, the mental aptitude to stay calm was key.”
In the first set, the Firestorm jumped out to a 9-2 lead highlighted by three consecutive service aces from Caitlin Chan. From there, the Warriors were left to play catch-up. Westmont went on a 7-3 run of their own to get back within striking distance, but Arizona Christian recorded three consecutive kills to take a 15-9 lead.
Arizona Christian ultimately took the first set 25-17, as Westmont helped the opposition with six attacking errors and two service errors.
“Things could have easily gone south after set one,” said McGolpin, “but I said to the team ‘take a deep breath, we got this’ because I knew we just needed to settle into a rhythm.”
In set two, Westmont established that rhythm when they opened up with a 9-2 run capped off by three kills from Addie Paul. Kills by Sara Krueger and Lexi Malone led Westmont to a 15-5 lead going into an Arizona Christian timeout. The Warriors never let up from there.
Taylor Distelberg’s second kill of the night gave Westmont a 25-14 win in set two to even things up. Paul recorded four kills in the set, while Jessie Terlizzi and Malone added three of their own.
In the third set, the Firestorm quickly responded out of the gate, taking a 9-4 lead into Westmont’s first timeout. Out of the timeout, the Firestorm took control of the game with a 16-8 lead, as they looked to leave the Warriors in the rearview for the second time in three sets.
Westmont clawed back into the picture with a 7-3 run to make things 19-15 going into an Arizona Christian timeout. Following the timeout, things continued to get interesting.
An Arizona attacking error and a kill by Distelberg pulled the Warriors within a pair at 20-18, but the early deficit proved to be too large to overcome as Arizona Christian came away with a 25-22 win.
In set four, Westmont led 7-2 from the start as they looked to force a decisive fifth set. From there, it was a race to fend off the Firestorm, who would not go away easily. Westmont and Arizona Christian traded points for the most part following the early run from the Warriors, with the Firestorm keeping with four points.
When the Firestorm got within three at 16-13, kills by Audrey Brown and Terlizzi helped build the Warrior lead back up to six points. Including that pivotal three-point run, the Warriors exploded to finish the set on a 9-1 run to win 25-14, and force the fifth set.
“Blocking started to get better as the night went on,” noted McGolpin. “Our passing got better and then we started serving to the right people and it allowed us to get their offense out of system. Specifically, Ana Neumann had some great short serves that threw them off, and Alex Gatiss was able to do that as well.”
Terlizzi dominated the fourth set with five kills, and had 17 going into set five.
In the fifth and final set, the two clubs traded blows early and began with five points apiece. The stalemate continued until the clubs reached double-digits, and neither club got a multi-point lead until the match had found its victor
With everyone in the gym on the edge of their seat, Terlizzi’s match-high 18th kill gave Westmont a 15-14 lead. Then, an Arizona Christian attacking error allowed the Warriors to exhale, as the club took the set 16-14 and the match 3-2.
“What I was most proud of,” said McGolpin, “is that we have shown resilience this whole season. We have had a slew of injuries and so much stacked against us, but we continue to show grit and find ways to get it done.”
Along with her 18 kills, Terlizzi also led the club with 19 digs. Brown turned in an impressive match with 10 kills and six blocks, and Krueger continued to find ways to contribute with six kills and a match-high 11 blocks.
“Audrey and Jessie were our two key-ingredients on offense,” said McGolpin, “they were really the backbone of everything we were able to get done offensively. Jessie was yelling like she wanted the ball tonight and she played up to that energy as well. Taylor Distelberg as well came in and had some big swings, getting four kills on zero errors in eleven attempts. Then for Sara, her blocking just continues to get better and is becoming a big strength for our team.
Keelyn Kistner collected 24 assists for the Warriors while Sydny Dunn added 20 of her own.
Jacob Norling is the Westmont College sports information assistant.