Sanders Leads The Tigers Past The Highlanders In Three

Pacific Volleyball - Photo by: Gary Jones
Pacific Volleyball - Photo by: Gary Jones
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Stockton, Calif. - Looking to keep their perfect home record intact, the Pacific women's volleyball team made short work of the visiting Highlanders, winning in a 3-0 sweep on Saturday, September 29. The win for the Tigers moved their record to 14-2 overall and 2-1 in the Big West whie the Highlanders fell to 5-12 overall and 0-4 in conference action. Pacific is now 5-0 at home in the Alex G. Spanos Center.

Set scores for the match were: 25-23, 25-18, 25-20.

Working the kinks out of their newly unleashed two setter system, the Tigers put together their strongest conference performance yet of the young season to grab their fifth straight sweep of the Highlanders. Throughout the night, it was the Tigers' complete domination at the net defensively that set Pacific up for success. Overall, Pacific posted 11.0 total blocks in just three sets as the Tigers controlled the middle, and with it, the match.

In the opening set, the Tigers found themselves in what would be the closest battle of the evening as Pacific could not shake the pesky Highlanders for much of the set. Tied at 21-21, the Tigers produced a three-point swing that included pair of kills from junior Megan Birch and senior Gabby Cowden. That three-point advantage matched Pacific's largest lead of the set and gave the Tigers' three chances to claim the opening victory, a feat they would finally accomplish when the Highlanders gifted the Tigers' the final point on a service error. Prior to the final run of points, the Tigers relied on the presence of their all-conference middle blocker, junior Jennifer Sanders, for the bulk of their offense as Sanders set the tone for the night with six kills on just nine swings.

With the first set put away, the Tigers went to work once again at the net in the second set as they posted four blocks in the frame to control the tempo. In on all four of the blocks for the Tigers was sophomore Gillian Howard as the big middle got her hands on seemingly every Highlander attack including the block that started Pacific's final run. Tied at 16-16, the Tigers produced a 9-2 run to close out the set, spurred by Howard's fourth block of the set and punctuated by three more kills by Sanders.

In a final move to end their night in just three sets, the Tigers continued to feed the middle as Sanders pounded down six more kills on just 10 swings while Birch found her rhythm to add four kills on 13 attacks. Additionally, the Tigers picked up four more blocks as Sanders, Howard and freshman Kat Schulz all tallied two blocks in the set while Birch and freshman Kimmy Whitson each added one. The Tigers control of the middle allowed Pacific to grab a lead as large as seven late in the set to put the Highlanders away.

Overall, Pacific saw their junior dominate the match as Sanders posted a season-best 16 kills on 25 attacks with just one error (.600). In addition to her offensive performance, Sanders posted four blocks for the Tigers. Outside of Sanders, the Tigers Saw Birch post nine kills on .250 hitting while Cowden tallied eight kills on .304 hitting. 

Defensively, the Tigers were led by Howards' seven blocks while Whitson posted a career-best six blocks on the night. Whitson also added a career-best 18 assists while tallying three kills on six attacks. As a team, the Tigers hit .259 while holding the Highlanders to .119.

For the Highlanders, Amanda Vialpando led the way with 15 kills on .238 hitting while adding 10 digs and two blocks. Ashley Cox grabbed 12 kills and 10 digs on the night, but was held to just .103 hitting.

Pacific hits the road for a pair of matches to begin October as the Tigers travel to UC Irvine on Friday, October 5. The Tigers and the Anteaters meet at 7:00 pm.