Photo by Terra Atwood
For the Pepperdine women’s volleyball team, playing at home is something very important to Head Coach Scott Wong and company.
Entering the 2016 season, the team has seen a lot of high expectations based on last season’s successes. Gone are the growing pains for their young stars, who are now more experienced with a full season in their pockets. For the Waves, they hope to continue their recent successes and what a better way than to do so to begin their campaign in Malibu, California.
“For these young women to start off the season at home is always a great thing,” said Wong, who is in his second year as head coach for the Waves. “To play in front of a passionate [Firestone Fieldhouse] crowd and feel the energy from these great fans from the start is truly something special.”
The Pepperdine women’s volleyball team opened the 2016 season with the 19th annual Asics Classic this past weekend, hosting Rhode Island, Lipscomb University and Cal State Northridge on Friday and Saturday in Firestone Fieldhouse.
In the first game of the tournament against Rhode Island, the Waves and Rams began the first set in a close battle, trading point for point before sophomores Heidi Dyer and Tarah Wylie led Pepperdine to a 13-11 lead. However, Rhode Island rallied back from behind, taking a 14-4 run to take the first set 25 to 17.
In the second set, the Waves got an early advantage 14-11, but the Rams again battled back to take the lead late in the game 20-19. Despite the close score in the set, Wylie stepped up clutch to even the score at 20 before Jasmine Gross had back-to-back blocks to secure set number 2 for the Waves 25 to 21.
Rhode Island came out of the halftime break on a tear, taking a quick 6-1 lead in the third set behind Kylee Wolfe. The Rams continued to hold on to the lead throughout, ultimately taking the set 25-21 to go up 2 sets to 1.
Pepperdine and Rhode Island began set four in a see-saw battle, going back and forth before Pepperdine took a late three-point lead 20-17. Rhode Island tied the score late and took their first lead of the set 22-21, but Pepperdine continued to fight exchanging the lead three times before freshman Hannah Frohling came up big, notching a kill to help the Waves go up 24-23. The Waves eventually put the Rams away on set point, securing a critical fourth set victory 25-23.
In the fifth set, both teams started off slowly, but Wylie and Dyer came up in the big moments to lead the Waves to a 11-6 lead going down the stretch. The Rams tried to make a late comeback, but Pepperdine shut down the late rally, securing a 15-11 fifth set victory to win the match 3 sets to 2.
Sophomore Heidi Dyer and junior Maddie Dilfer both recorded their first double-doubles as Waves to lead the team with 24 assists apiece. Dyer also contributed 11 kills and 7 digs while Dilfer had 18 digs. Sophomore Tarah Wylie had 9 kills and a game-high 6 blocks and freshman Hana Lishman had a monster defensive performance with 22 digs.
“This game was definitely a big test for us,” Dilfer said. “There was a bit of rust when we started the match, but I’m glad we got the win.”
In their second match on Friday night, the Waves took on Lipscomb. In the first set, Lipscomb jumped out to an early four point advantage, but Pepperdine’s defense triggered a 6-1 run to cut into the deficit. But the Bison would hold off the Waves to capture the first set with a score of 25 to 20.
In the second set, the Bison and Waves squared off in a stalemate early with 4 ties and 5 lead changes, but Pepperdine built a four-point lead behind stellar plays by Nikki Lyons and Heidi Dyer. The Bison tied the score late 24-24 behind former Wave Taylor Racich, but the Waves hung on to secure a 26-24 set victory, evening up the match at one set a piece going into halftime.
In the third set, Pepperdine and Lipscomb again found themselves battling in another close start, but the Waves took a five-point lead 11-6 following a kill by Hannah Frohling. However, the Bisons caught fire, taking an 8 to 3 run to tie up the score 14 all. Late in the set, it would become another see-saw battle going into extra points with 4 ties, but Lipscomb would come out on top 29 to 27 to take a 2-1 set advantage
In the fourth set, Lipscomb took a quick 7-nothing run, but the Waves would cut into the deficit 9-5 after a kill by Lyons. The Waves continued to hang around throughout the set, but couldn’t complete the comeback, falling to the Bisons 25-21 in the final set as Lipscomb defeated Pepperdine 3 sets to 1.
Freshman Hannah Frohling collected her first career double-double with 10 kills and 10 digs and Sophomore Nikki Lyons led the team with 11 kills. Maddie Dilfer had 25 assists and Hana Lishman contributed with 16 digs.
“We learned a lot from these two matches today,” Frohling said. “We had to battle out a tough one in the first match, but the second match helped us learn how to play with one another.”
Pepperdine was back in action on Saturday afternoon, taking on Cal State Northridge in their final match of the Asics Classic.
In the first set, the Matadors ran off to a quick start, en route to a 20-12 lead over the Waves. Despite a late 7-2 run by Pepperdine, Cal State Northridge went ahead 1-0 following a 25-22 set victory.
With an early 5-5 tie to begin the second set, the Waves pushed ahead to gain a 12-8 lead, but the Matadors tied the score at 15 all. After exchanging the lead late in the game, Pepperdine turned defense into offense, as a block by Dyer and Wylie led to a pair of Dyer kills that gave the Waves a 25-22 set victory to even the match.
The third set was all Matadors, as Cal State Northridge went on a 9-0 run to take a 2-1 advantage. However, the Waves responded by taking a critical fourth set in a close 25-23 victory to lead into the winner-take-all fifth set.
In the fifth set, Pepperdine’s offense caught fire from the start, jumping out to a 10-2 lead. With a huge advantage, the Waves never looked back, taking set number five 15-4 to win the match 3 sets to 2.
Dyer led the team with her first career triple-double, posting 30 assists, 14 digs and 12 kills while contributing a team-high 5 blocks alongside freshman Jasmine Gross. Gross also added 10 kills and Wylie had a team-high 16 kills for Pepperdine.
“This weekend had a lot to take away for us,” Dyer said, following her triple-double performance. “Looking ahead, we just have to play with consistency and be able to communicate with one another.”
After opening the 2016 season with a 2-1 record, Pepperdine will hit the road to compete in the Arizona Invitational on Sept. 2 and 3 against Saint Mary’s University, Alabama State and University of Arizona.
Follow Arthur Puu on Twitter: @arthurpuu