SANTA ANA — The Westmont volleyball team (15-4, 9-2 GSAC) took over first place in the Golden State Athletic Conference on Tuesday night, after defeating the Vanguard Lions (18-6, 8-2) in Santa Ana.
Westmont won the first set of the night, before letting a close second set slip through their fingers.
However, the Warriors regrouped quickly, taking the third and fourth set to swap places with the now second-place Lions atop of the GSAC.
“In a pretty hostile environment, we very much stayed composed,” said Westmont Head Coach Ruth McGolpin. “We stayed disciplined and we had intentionality with one another, which is something we’ve been highlighting.
“They had great fans tonight. It was a fun, rowdy group, and we stayed composed all night. We’re all pretty stoked.”
Lexi Malone led the way offensively for the Warriors, collecting 13 kills while hitting .429. Jessie Terlizzi contributed with 12 kills, while Phoebe Minch added 10, and Sara Krueger collected nine.
Keelyn Kistner led Westmont with 24 assists, while also leading the Warriors with 17 digs. At the net, Malone led Westmont with five blocks.
“We won the serve and pass game tonight,” reflected McGolpin. “Our blocking also came through when we needed it to. We established the middles early, with both Lexi and Taylor Distelberg, and we got great productivity from both our opposites, Sara Krueger and Ashley Boswell.”
The Lions scored the first point of the match, but Westmont immediately responded with a 7-0 run. However, the Lions then began an 8-0 run of their own as the two threw heavyweight punches right out of the gate.
Later on, with the set tied at 17, a pair of kills by Terlizzi, along with kills from Krueger and Minch, highlighted an 8-2 run to take the first set 25-20.
In set two, the Warriors looked primed to take a 2-0 advantage, taking a 24-21 lead.
However, Westmont scored once more for the rest of the set, and not before the Mustangs tied things at 24. In the end, after trailing 24-21, the Lions scored seven of the final eight points of the set for a thrilling 27-25 win.
With the match tied at one apiece, and with momentum on the Lions’ side, the Warriors responded with a jarring punch of their own in set three.
Trailing 9-5, Westmont took control of the set, and the match, with a 16-3 run. During the run, Westmont collected nine kills, including five from Malone, allowing the Warriors to take a 21-12 lead. Later, after a last-second run by the Lions, the Warriors took the set 25-22 after a kill from Distelberg.
“We had a big lead in set two and it got away from us,” noted McGolpin, “but to come back with such a defining third set win was huge. That says a lot about our group to respond like that.”
In the fourth set, Westmont began their march towards the finish line after falling behind briefly at 8-7. From there, a pair of kills from Malone highlighted a 5-0 run that saw Westmont jump ahead 12-8, a lead they did not relinquish for most of the set.
During the final string of action, the Lions clawed back to not only tie the set, but take the lead momentarily at 21-20. Then, Westmont put their finishing touch on the match by scoring five of the final six points of the night to end it.
In the end, Krueger’s ninth kill of the match gave Westmont a 25-21 win, a 3-1 match victory, and sole possession of first-place in the GSAC.
“Everybody played a role in that match,” said McGolpin. “We passed, served, and blocked when we needed to, and the rest of the game took care of itself. It was just a good overall team effort tonight.”
Westmont returns to the court on Saturday night with another rivalry match, this time against The Master’s. First serve in Santa Clarita is scheduled for 7 p.m., and links to live coverage will be available at athletics.westmont.edu.
Jacob Norling is the sports information assistant at Westmont College.