Moscow, Idaho - Struggling to find their way early against Montana, the Pacific women's volleyball team mounted another huge rally to take home a 3-2 win over the Grizzlies in their final match of the Idaho Nike Invitational on Saturday, August 25. The win moved the Tigers to a perfect 3-0 on the weekend and gave them the tournament championship in their first invitational of the 2012 season.
Set scores for the match were: 19-25, 21-25, 25-20, 25-15, 15-8.
For the second time in as many days, the Tigers dug themselves into a deep hole before climbing their way out of trouble to come away with the five-set victory. For Pacific, it was their senior captain who did the heavy lifting to get her team back in the match as Gabby Cowden put together a career effort on the pins to lead the charge. Playing just her third match as an outside hitter, Cowden produced 26 kills on 59 swings, doubling her previous high of 13 kills set twice previously. Throughout the night, the Tigers looked to their captain at every critical point and Cowden delivered for her team. In addition to her dominance on the offensive side, Cowden added four digs and four blocks defensively to ignite Pacific's comeback.
Behind by two sets and staring their first loss of the season in the face the Tigers mounted a comeback after the break that would change the entire complextion of the match. Finding themselves in a back-and-forth battle in the third set and trailing 16-14 miday through the fram, Pacific took control of the set and with it the match with a 4-0 run on the serve of sophomore Gillian Howard. After suffering from a pourous defense in the opening two sets, the Tigers built a wall against the Grizzlies in set three. The Tigers wall showed no bigger than during their game-changing run as Pacific picked up a pair of blocks from Cowden as well as junior Jennifer Sanders and freshman Kat Schulz. The Tigers closed out the set by scoring 11 of the final 15 points against the Grizzlies.
With their feet firmly planted under them after picking up the set three win, the Tigers blew out Montana in set four using a 9-1 run in the middle of the set to put Montana away. During the run that gave Pacific a 20-12 lead, freshman Maddy Call served the Tigers to six straight points while Cosden accounted for four of the points with three kills and a second solo block. In both the third and fourth sets, the Tigers held the Grizzlies to just .029 hitting.
The blowout in set four would be all the momentum the Tigers would need to close out the Grizzlies and complete their comeback in set five as Pacific ran out to an 8-2 advantage by the change of court and never looked back. While Cowden and Sanders combined for seven kills in the frame, it was Pacific's defense, which held Montana to .000 hitting in the set that finished off the match for the Tigers.
Prior to the Tigers' rally the Grizzlies had complete control of the match as Montana buried Pacific over the first two sets of the contest. In the opening set, the Grizzlies turned an early tie of 6-6 into an 11 point advantage at 20-9 behind a 14-3 run. In set two, the script was not much different as the Tigers saw a 7-5 advantage turn into an 11-7 hole after a 6-0 run by Montana. The Grizzlies would extend their lead to 15-8 to push the Tigers to the edge of defeat after just two sets.
Overall, Cowden led all attackers with her career-high 26 kills while Birch and Sanders each tallied double-digit kills with 14 and 11, respectively. Sanders finished her night with seven total blocks as Pacific produced 12 team blocks in the match. Senior Hannah Clancy recorded her third-consecutive double-double in the win as she posted 45 assists and 17 digs in the winning effort. Defensively, the Tigers backline, while shaky to start the evening, found their groove late in the match as five defenders recorded double-digit digs led by senior Koala Matsuoka's team-best 20. After Clancy's 17, Schulz produced 16 while freshmen Maddy Call and Mia Feiner tallied 14 and 13, respectively.
For Montana, Kelsey Schile and Kayla Reno each recorded 15 kills against the Tigers while Paige Branstiter added 13.
At the conclusion of the tournament, Cowden was named the Idaho Nike Invitational Most Valuable Player for her efforts in the Tigers' championship. Birch and Sanders joined their captain on the all-tournament team as well.
The Tigers will be back in action on Friday, August 31 as they play host to the 34th Annual Community Bankers Classic in Stockton, Calif. Pacific will face Portland State in its opening match of the tournament at 7:00 pm. Prior to the Tigers match, Nevada and Northern Illinois will face off at 5:00 pm.