The Waves mob the court in the aftermath of their 3-0 sweep of Gonzaga on Sept. 27, at Firestone Fieldhouse. It was the Waves first conference win of the season. Photos by Colton Rubsamen
No. 20 Women’s Indoor Volleyball got back in the win column with a 25-18, 25-20, 25-23 win over Gonzaga on Tuesday, Sept. 27, at Firestone Fieldhouse. It was the Waves first WCC win of the season, after back-to-back defeats against No. 4 San Diego on Sept. 22, and No. 16 BYU on Sept. 24.
Junior middle blocker Meg Brown, graduate student outside hitter Rachel Ahrens and sophomore outside hitter Grace Chillingworth led the Waves offense with 12, 10 and 8 kills, respectively. On the defensive end, graduate student libero Riley Patterson recorded 16 digs. The win boosted Pepperdine to a 10-4 overall record.
“There’s glimmers of greatness,” Head Coach Scott Wong said. “We’ve just got to keep on growing on those glimmers to make it more of a constant.”
It was a contentious affair in the beginning. There were five ties in the first 20 points, as neither team was able to find any scoreboard separation.
The Waves found some breathing space courtesy of a 9-2 run, which took the score from 11-11 to 20-13. Brown, Ahrens and Chillingworth were instrumental in the Waves’ run, finding ways to hit around an aggressive Bulldogs block. Gonzaga called two timeouts, at 15-11 and at 20-13, but couldn’t halt the Waves momentum.
“We’ve really been working on our serving and being aggressive with that,” Brown said. “We were able to knock them off the net a lot, and that really gave us confidence, especially blocking-wise.”
Gonzaga pulled back into the set a bit through some excellent serving by graduate student outside hitter Kennedy Croft. Despite Croft’s efforts, the Waves took the first set 25-18.
The Waves separated themselves early on in the second set. Brown and senior setter Isabel Zelaya hit back-to-back kills from almost the exact same spot on the court to push the score to 7-0, forcing the Bulldogs to take a timeout.
With Pepperdine up 10-5, Patterson tracked down a Bulldogs hit beaming toward the left side of the court. Patterson flung out her left hand and lofted the ball into the air, keeping the play alive and ultimately earning Pepperdine an 11-5 lead. It was a play emblematic of the Waves defensive effort in the match.
“It’s not easy to put balls away against us; I think that’s our strength right now as a team,” Wong said. “Definitely our back row defense is solid right now.”
The Bulldogs worked their way back into the set, cutting the Waves lead from 19-12 to 21-19. Chillingworth tallied a kill to put the Waves up 22-19, which proved to be a decisive lead as Pepperdine claimed the second set a few points later.
Gonzaga jumped out to a 5-4 lead in the third set, their first advantage since 9-8 in the first set. The Bulldogs lengthened their lead to 11-5, before Chillingworth popped up for a powerful kill that seemed to establish some momentum for the Waves.
“Chillie [Chillingworth] scored early, and then scored a lot late,” Wong said. “I thought Meg [Brown] was unstoppable early on, and so was Rachel [Ahrens]. Whenever [Ahrens] hit the court, she scored. All three of them performed for us offensively.”
27 back-and-forth points later, with Gonzaga leading 22-21, a Gonzaga hit careened toward the Waves side of the court. Instead of meeting the hardwood, it met the outstretched arm of sophomore libero Trinity Stanger, who made her fifth dig of the evening in diving fashion. Stanger’s dig floated to Brown, whose kill tied the game at 22.
“A lot of times, in practice, we put ourselves in those hard situations,” Zelaya said. “So, when it comes to game time and we’re in that situation, we’re very prepared.”
A few moments later, Brown’s 12th kill of the evening set up match point for Pepperdine. Senior libero Kayleigh Hames’ serve appeared to be going well long until it glanced off the arm of an unaware Gonzaga player standing on the end line. The Waves bench mobbed onto the court as the scoreboard changed for the final time.
The Waves won’t have long to rest — Pepperdine goes on the road to play San Francisco on Sept. 29, and Santa Clara on Oct. 1.
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