For the first time in program history, the Westmont women’s volleyball team beat Columbia (Mo.) and it could not have come at a better time as the Warriors swept the Cougars — 25-21, 25-21, 25-22 — on the first day of pool play at the NAIA Final Site.
Westmont (27-6) had faced Columbia six times, all losses in national tournament play.
The Warriors were able to topple the Cougars this time around thanks in large part to a balanced offense.
Lexi Malone led Westmont with 11 kills while junior outside hitter Hali Galloway added seven, senior outside hitter Cassidy Rea tallied six and Brooklynn Cheney posted five.
Setters Keelyn Kistner and Sydny Dunn combined to dish out 27 assists while, on the defensive end, Lauren Friis led the team with 22 digs, while the team totaled eight blocks on Tuesday.
The first set had a consistent feel to it. Westmont would jump out to a lead, but Columbia would respond and catch up. The Warriors led 5-1 before the Cougars caught them to tie it at 10-10.
Up 20-17, the Warriors put together four-straight points to take a commanding 24-17 lead. They would give up the next four points but then tallied the decisive one as Malone got her third kill of the set to put Westmont up 1-0.
The second set was a lot tighter with neither side gaining much of an advantage. Trailing by two points, the Warriors combined their offensive and defensive forces tallying three kills and earning two blocks to take a 20-17 lead.
After that, the two teams traded points until Westmont claimed the second-set victory at 25-21. Once again, a kill by Malone provided the final point.
A similar run in the third set would seal the Cougars’ fate in this match. Trailing 15-12, the Warriors used an 8-2 run to again take a 20-17 lead thanks to a few attack errors, a pair of kills from Galloway, one from Patty Kerman and a service ace from Dunn.
An attacking error by Columbia trailing 24-22 would give Westmont the win in this match.
The Warriors did not hit great on Tuesday, clipping at just .130, but held Columbia to a .092 hitting percentage.
Westmont will continue pool play today against the eighth-ranked Jimmies of Jamestown from North Dakota (30-4) at noon PST.
The tournament in Sioux City is comprised of 32 teams that are divided into eight pools of four teams each. Each team plays the others in its pool with the top two teams from each pool advancing to a 16-team, single-elimination bracket.
Jamestown is the top-ranked team in Pool H. Columbia was the second-seeded team and Westmont the third. The fourth team is Xavier of Louisiana (31-7).