Better Late Than Never, Pacific Rallies In Five Against UC Irvine
Stockton, Calif. - Pushed to the brink, the Pacific women's volleyball team found their fight as they rallied in five games to defeat UC Irvine, 3-2, on Friday, September 21. The win was the Tigers' first conference win of the season as they improved to 1-1 in Big West play and 10-5 on the year while the Anteaters fell to 5-6 overall and 0-1 in the conference.
Game scores for the match were: 21-25, 21-25, 26-24, 25-15, 15-11.
Down to their final breath of life in game three, the Tigers rallied to survive and stormed back against the visiting Anteaters to capture an improbable victory at home in the Alex G. Spanos Center. Down 24-23 in game three and down two games to none, Pacific looked towards some of its youngest players to save them from the cliffs of defeat as sophomore Megan Birch and freshman Gillian Howard saved the Tigers from a disaterous start to the conference season and put Pacific back on the right track.
Birch, who had struggled mightly throughout the third game up until its final points, came through when it mattered most to the Tigers as the Monroe, Wash. native slammed home the match-saving kill at 24-23 to keep Pacific's hopes alive. From there, Birch flipped her mind to defense where she teamed with Howard to post back-to-back blocks of the Anteaters, sealing the game win for the Tigers and setting Pacific down the road to victory.
With the momentum in hand from game three, the Tigers set their sites on evening the match at one game a piece. After starting slow in game four, the Tigers ramped up their attack with a steady diet of kills from the outside. Leading the way once again was Birch, as the sophomore tallied five kills in six attacks. Not to be outdone, senior Samantha Misa, who was coming off a six kill game in game three, put down five kills as well to force a fifth and decisive contest.
Sensing what could be and needing just 15 points to claim the win, the Tigers did not disappoint as they put the finishing touches on their comeback by using an 8-4 run to close out the match and turn 7-7 tie into a 15-11 win. Epitomizing the team effort it took to turn what seemed like a lost match around, the Tigers picked up kills from all five of their attackers in the final run of the match to seal the victory.
Prior to the comeback, the Tigers saw the Anteaters jump out to a commanding lead in the match by taking the first two games as Pacific struggled to get its offense going. In the opening game, the Tigers were held to just .059 hitting, a number Pacific longed for in game two after posting an even .000 hitting percentage in the second frame. Game three started off in much the same fashion as the Anteaters used a struggling Tiger side to build an early lead as large as five points and a late lead as large as three points before Pacific began its rally.
For the night the Tigers were led by Misa who posted a match-high 21 kills. In addition to her offense, the senior added 17 digs, one shy of tying her career high of 18 digs set last season against Long Beach State. Trying to ease Misa's burden, Birch finished with 15 kills and just four errors on 33 attacks, hitting .333 to lead all Pacific attackers. She also posted four blocks on the night, two back of Howard's match and career-high six on the night. The freshman, Howard, also added seven kills while after picking up the start. Sophomore Jennifer Sanders tallied seven kills and four blocks off the bench for the Tigers while junior Hannah Clancy picked up her team-best eighth double-double of the year with 50 assists and 18 digs. She also added four blocks for good measure.
Leading the way for the Anteaters was Aly Squires who posted 13 kills on 64 attacks. She also finished with a double-double after tallying 18 digs to go along with three blocks and one ace. Alexandra Hauser was the only other attacker to reach double-figures in kills in the match as she posted 10 kills on 27 attacks.
The Tigers will be back in action on Friday, September 30, when they travel to UC Santa Barbara to take on the Gauchos. The match is scheduled to begin at 7:30 pm at the Thunderdome.