Westmont Volleyball (17-4, 11-2 GSAC) won their fifth match in a row on Friday night, while extending their first-place lead over Life Pacific (12-5, 9-5) to 2.5 games. Westmont fell in the first set to Life Pacific, just as they did in an eventual five-set loss to the team on October 1.
On this occasion, however, Westmont refused to let history repeat itself, ultimately taking the next three sets to win it in four.
“The words we used in the pre-game speech were ‘stay the course’,” said Westmont head coach Ruth McGolpin, “We’ve made some vast improvements in the three weeks since we’ve played them, and we followed the scouting report to a T.
“It was a rowdy crowd and a lot of fun to play in that place tonight. That was the first time I’ve seen their fans come out like that, and it made the match even more fun.”
In the first set, Westmont was forced to play from behind early, after a 5-0 run allowed Life Pacific to take an early 11-6 advantage. Westmont fought back to tie the match at 15, and went ahead for a moment at 16-15, but once over the initial hump, LPU once again pushed Westmont back.
After an 18-18 tie, Life Pacific scored on a kill, an ace, and a Westmont attacking error, forcing McGolpin to call timeout 21-18. Out of the timeout, LPU kept Westmont out of striking distance, eventually winning it 25-21 after back-to-back set-ending kills.
“It’s a good team over there,” assured McGolpin. “Life got a lot of scrappy points in the first set, and made some fun plays that fell in their favor. I continued to say though, ‘stay the course’. I knew if we could dial in our passing and our serving, we would be okay.”
Westmont evened things up in the second set thanks to a pair of momentum-shifting stretches. Tied 8-8, a kill by Lexi Malone sparked a 6-0 run that was capped off by a kill from Keelyn Kistner. Up 14-8 however, Westmont was not able to cruise to victory due to a tenacious answer from Life Pacific, who tied the set later on at 17.
Tied 17-17, Jessie Terlizzi was the next Westmont player to spark a run, this time collecting her third kill of the match to begin a five-point swing. Moments later, Phoebe Minch’s ninth kill capped off the five-point run, putting Westmont in control at 22-17.
Minch did not stop there, as her 10th kill put Westmont up 23-18, and her 11th kill capped off a 25-22 win to tie the match 1-1.
Westmont did not allow Life Pacific to rediscover their footing quickly when the third set began, as the road-Warriors opened up the swing-game on a 9-3 run. During the run, Minch continued to antagonize the Life Pacific defense, collecting her 12th, 13th, and 14th kills to make an early statement.
However, as the set went on, every single point the road-Warriors scored proved to be a crucial one. Slowly, but consistently, Life Pacific trimmed away at the once-large deficit, allowing the home-Warriors to erupt when they tied the set late at 21.
With the game tied 22-22, Minch’s 15th kill put Westmont up 23-22, and Malone’s sixth kill put them on the brink of victory at 24-22. Life Pacific added to the tension with a kill of their own to make it 24-23, but Malone and Westmont got the last roar in set three when her seventh kill gave Westmont a 25-23 win, and 2-1 set advantage.
In the fourth and final set, Westmont once again jumped out to a 9-3 advantage, only for Life Pacific to turn around and tie things 9-9. Then, two kills from Malone and Terlizzi, followed by a fifth from Ashley Boswell, capped off another five-point swing, this time putting Westmont up 14-9.
On two occasions later in the set, LPU cut the deficit back to two, but as the game headed for a conclusion, Westmont pulled away for good. In the end, Malone’s 10th kill gave Westmont a 25-19 win, a 3-1 match victory, and a happy ride home.
“I applauded the team for their mental stronghold tonight,” reflected McGolpin. “We were mentally tough and physically stayed aggressive. We played a good team tonight, and I’m proud of our team for walking away from this with a win.”
Minch ended up finishing with a season-high 19 kills, and an attack percentage of .375, while Sara Krueger collected 13 kills at a .455 clip. Three of Krueger’s kills came in the final stretch of the match.
Defensively, Malone, Krueger, and Alexis Dennick each collected two blocks, while Kaili Hashimoto ended with a team-high 18 digs. Freshman Alexa Shiner led Westmont with a season-high 28 assists, while Kistner added 22 of her own.
“Phoebe was on fire,” said McGolpin, “and she ended the night with an awesome hitting percentage as well. She did an excellent job, and so did Sara and Lexi. Those three were our soldiers tonight, but everyone did a fantastic job.”
Westmont returns to Santa Barbara tomorrow night at 6 p.m. for Senior Night, when they host the Hope International Royals.
Jacob Norling is the sports information assistant at Westmont College.