By JACOB NORLING
WESTMONT COLLEGE WRITER
SAN DIMAS — It took five sets, but No. 15 Westmont (7-5, 1-1) survived against Life Pacific (7-3, 0-1) on Friday night, to open Golden State Athletic Conference play with a 3-2 win.
Westmont did not play its best brand of volleyball, but still got the job done by a score of 25-23, 26-28, 25-21, 11-25 and 15-13.
“They pushed us and we responded,” said Westmont head coach Ruth McGolpin. “I was proud of my team tonight because of the mental aspect of the game. To be able to respond from the fourth set loss and win that fifth set says a lot.”
In the first set, Westmont went down 13-6 before McGolpin called her first timeout. At that point, Westmont had already committed seven attacking errors.
“We had a really hard practice yesterday,” explained McGolpin, “and we talked about how it’s meant to show them how hard they would need to work in the game. Just reminding them to reward themselves for the work they put in, and to make sure it was worth it, was something that helped us get going.”
Three kills by Phoebe Minch sparked a rally that brought Westmont within one at 14-13, allowing the club to hit reset. From there, they kept on Life Pacific’s tail, causing Pacific to use a timeout up 19-18. Minch’s 6th kill of the match finally got Westmont even with Life Pacific at 22 all.
Minch’s seventh kill got Westmont its first lead of the night, and her first service ace of the evening capped off a thrilling first-set comeback for the club, as Westmont took set one 25-23.
In the second set, Jessie Terlizzi’s third kill of the match tied things at five apiece. From there, the two sides traded multi-point runs without either getting out of reach from the other. Eventually, Terlizzi’s eighth kill of the match tied things at 20 and her 10th tied it again at 24.
Unfortunately, consecutive attacking errors by Westmont gave Life Pacific the second set, 28-26.
Westmont came out angry in the third, going on a 6-0 run. After the run, the set became a game of cat and mouse with Westmont trying to hold off Life Pacific. Life began slowly picking away at the Westmont lead, pulling within four at 21-17, then going on a 4-1 run to pull within one at 22-21.
Westmont was able to escape the set with a three-point run, capped off by Sara Krueger’s seventh kill of the match, to win it 25-21 and take a 2-1 set advantage. Minch collected another six kills during the set.
In the fourth, after things were tied at 6, Life Pacific went on a 7-2 run to take a 13-8 lead into a Westmont timeout.
Out of the timeout, the run did not soon come to a halt. Westmont scored only three more times for the remainder of the game, dropping a forgettable fourth set by a score of 25-11.
In the fifth and final set, the game remained tied at nine apiece setting up a sprint to the finish line. After Life Pacific took an 11-9 lead, McGolpin used one final timeout.
“I told them they had to be tough,” said McGolpin. “I told them they had to get after it, and then out of that timeout, they ripped the ball.”
Kills by Terlizzi and Minch along with an opposing attacking error tied things up at 12, shifting the sprint into a photo finish. With a 14-13 lead, Krueger’s seventh block of the night gave Westmont a 15-13 set win, a 3-2 match win and a 1-0 start in GSAC play.
“Sara was good tonight,” said a pleased McGolpin. “She had some key kills in some key situations, but the big thing was her blocking. Her blocking was really the biggest lift she gave us. She stepped up, and as a freshman, that was impressive to see.”
Minch led the way offensively with 22 kills, while Terlizzi recorded 14 of her own.
Along with her seven blocks, Krueger collected 9 kills. Sydny Dunn, working in a 5-1 offense for the third consecutive match, collected 48 assists.
“Phoebe had 63 attempts,” said McGolpin, “that is rock star status. Along with that, she had to pass a ton as well. She’s definitely been a staple for us.”
“It was a hostile environment,” concluded McGolpin. “The fans were loud, the gym was small, and acoustically it was like the sound was turned up to eleven. So to be able to bounce back and win was a huge mental victory.”
Jacob Norling is a sports information assistant at Westmont College.