Upperclassmen Guide Pacific Back From The Brink With A 3-2 Win At Idaho

#11 Megan Birch
#11 Megan Birch
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Moscow, Idaho - Falling behind two games to none in their opening match of the 2012 season, the Pacific women's volleyball team rallied for a thrilling 3-2, come-from-behind, victory over the host Vandals of Idaho on Friday, August 24 at the Idaho Nike Invitational. The win marked the second-straight season the Tigers opened their year with a 3-2 win on the road at a tournament.

Set scores for the match were: 23-25, 24-26, 25-18, 25-17, 15-9

With their backs against the wall and facing a loss to open their new campaign, the Tigers turned their night around and ran away with the contest against the Vandals as Pacific used a blend of speed on offense and an impenatrable defense to bury Idaho. The Tigers looked to their veterans to provide the fire power as junior Megan Birch posted a career-high 21 kills with 11 coming in the final three sets while junior Jennifer Sanders tagged the Vandals for 15 kills on .367 hitting. Off the bench, senior captain Gabby Cowden provided a spark for the Tigers with 10 kills.

In set three, the Tigers took an early lead against the Vandals and never looked back, turning a three point lead midway through the frame into a six point advantage at 17-11. Pacific used a 4-1 run by spreading the ball around and keeping Idaho off balance. The final kill of the Tigers' run came from sophomore Katy Tagart who came off the bench in the third set to give Pacific a second burst of new energy on top of Cowden.

Back to life with the win in the third set, Pacific again stormed out to a big early lead as the Tigers forced the Vandals into mistake after mistake en route to holding Idaho to just .053 hitting in the frame. After jumping out to a six point lead at 9-3 and having forced a timeout two points earlier, the Tigers would allow Idaho to close to only within four points the rest of the way while pushing the match to a fifth and decisive set.

Down to a winner-take-all, 15-point, frame in the fifth set, the Tigers left no doubt as to who would take the match as Pacific hit a match-high .478 in the set with 11 kills and no errors on 23 attacks. The big damage for the Tigers came after leading by just one at 9-8 as Pacific closed the night on a 6-1 run behind the serve of senior Hannah Clancy. In the set, Birch and Sanders each tallied a trio of kills on five attempts while sophomore Gillian Howard added three more on six swings. The 6-4 middle finished her night with nine kills on 22 attempts while also adding four digs and two blocks. 

Prior to the Tigers' three-straight set victories, Pacific dropped the opening two frames in heart-breaking fashion as it let late comfortable leads slip away and into the Vandals hands. In set one, the Tigers led 19-14 before Idaho rallied with a 7-1 run to take control. In set two, the score was nearly identical as the Tigers led 19-15 before a 6-2 run knotted the set at 21-21. Pacific had its chances to put the set away as the Tigers held two set-points at 24-22, but a 4-0 run by the Vandals dug the Tigers into what looked like to be an insurmountable hole.

Overall, the Tigers saw Clancy record her 33rd career double-double as the senior tallied 51 assists and 12 digs. Defensively, four Tigers hit the double-digit dig mark as senior Koala Matsuoka posted 23 digs to lead Pacific while freshmen Kat Schulz and Mia Feiner posted 13 and 11, respectively.

For the Vandals, Allison (Walker) Baker recorded a double-double with a team-high 17 kills and 19 digs. However, the Tigers held the Vandals' all-conference outside hitter to just a .094 hitting percentage as she committed 11 errors on 64 swings. Katelyn Peterson added 14 kills and Alyssa Schultz tallied 13 to round out the Vandals' scoring. As a team, Idaho posted 12 blocks to Pacific's five.

The Tigers will be back in action in the morning of August 25 as Pacific takes on Washington State at 10:00 am on day two of the Idaho Nike Invitational. The Tigers will play Montana later in the evening at 4:30 pm to close out their play at the tournament.