Westmont Volleyball (2-2) capped off their season-opening weekend on Saturday when they took part in their second doubleheader in as many days. First, the Warriors pulled off a reverse-sweep against Saint Katherine (2-6), before falling in five sets against Corban (Ore.) (7-1).
“I think we really grew as a team today,” said Westmont head coach Ruth McGolpin. “Our team could see their own potential today. The mental aptitude of this team is a lot stronger than it was at times in the past. They showed fire and grit, and proved that they have that fight in them today.”
In the first match of the day, the Warriors showed up late to the party. In the first set against the Saint Katherine Firebirds the Warriors committed nine attacking errors and never truly threatened, dropping the opener 25-15.
In the second set, Westmont kept better pace with the Firebirds, but ran out of steam late as Saint Katherine won it 25-20 to take a commanding 2-0 set lead. However, while the scoreboard shows the Warriors were down and out, the vibe on the bench remained optimistic.
“A prior conversation led by myself and Lexi Malone really set the tone for the day,” said McGolpin. “Earlier in the day, I sent the girls a text referencing Joshua 22:5, which talks about heart and soul. That really stuck with us today.
“I got fired up, Lexi pitched in, and Laura Galloway, with her calm demeanor, added in as well. With that in our minds, and with the changes we made defensively, we knew we weren’t out of that match.”
Early on in the third set the Firebirds led 5-2 and flirted with the chance to sweep the Warriors. However, Westmont refused to bow out early, eventually tying the set 9-9. From there, the Warriors went on a 6-2 run to claim their largest lead of the match to that point.
Eventually, Lexi Malone’s third kill of the set gave the Warriors a 25-17 win to stave off defeat, and get themselves back in the contest.
In the fourth set, the two sides traded blows to an 11-11 tie. Then, the Warriors rattled off five consecutive points, beginning a 10-2 run that took control of the set, and debatably the entire match. Taylor Distelberg recorded a kill to finish off the fourth set 25-19, and from there, the Warriors never looked back.
The Warriors opened the fifth and final set on a 7-2 run and led 12-5 by the time Saint Katherine called timeout to try and stop the bleeding. Out of the timeout, the Warriors completed the reverse sweep with Malone’s game-high 15th kill to win the set 15-6, and the match 3-2.
“Our defensive effort was the key,” said McGolpin. “We served lights out and our passing got better as the match went on. We definitely showed some heart and soul in games three, four, and five.”
Malone not only led the Warriors with 15 kills in the match, but also led the club with seven blocks, including three in the final set. Minch also added in 14 kills of her own, while Kaili Hashimoto led the Warriors with 23 digs and 13 assists.
“Lexi Malone’s blocking was game-changing, especially in set five,” said McGolpin. “Kai Hashimoto was amazing as well, and Phoebe caught fire when we needed her to.”
In the second half of the doubleheader, the Warriors went toe-to-toe with Corban, a team ranked #7 in the NAIA Preseason Poll. While Corban proved to be too much in the end, the Warriors showed much of the same fight from the beginning of the day.
In the first set, Westmont stayed tight with Corban until the middle of the game, when a Corban run put the Oregon club up 15-10. Westmont never got back within striking distance and Corban ultimately claimed the opener 25-20.
In the second set, Westmont returned the favor, pulling away in the middle of the set with a 17-12 lead. While Corban chipped away at the lead, they never again passed Westmont, as the GSAC club took the second set 25-21.
The two sides continued to trade blows in the third set, with the clubs staying within a handful of points of one-another until the end of the match. Westmont was within striking distance at 18-15, before Corban went on a 5-0 run to take control in what turned out to be a 25-16 win.
Down 2-1, the Warriors were able to once again display the heart and soul that carried them in game one. Westmont came out with a vengeance, leading 15-6 at one point, before claiming the set 25-18 to force a decisive fifth set.
In the end, however, Corban jumped out to an early lead before Westmont could muster a run of their own. Corban led 8-1 to open the set, and ultimately won the match with a 15-6 win in the final set.
“Just like earlier in the day, we showed a lot of heart and soul,” said McGolpin. “Despite the score, the fifth set was a dog fight. There were moments of brilliance all day. Taylor Distelberg for instance was amazing. She came into her own today.”
Minch led the club with 13 kills in the match, and also led the team with 26 digs. Alexa Shiner and Keelyn Kistner each had 21 assists.
“Our players understand you have to have a growth mindset,” shared McGolpin, “and they’re nowhere near satisfied. They realize the season is young, and we have to continue to get better in every way.
“Today, we played with fire, and that was cool to see.”
The Warriors return to action next weekend in Omaha, Nebraska where they’ll compete in another two-day tournament. On Friday, September 2, Westmont will play Doane (Neb.) and William Woods (Mo.), before playing Grand View (Iowa) and Bellevue (Neb.) on Saturday.
Jacob Norling is the sports information assistant at Westmont College.