Riverside, Calif. - Down two sets to none, the Pacific women's volleyball team rallied back against UC Riverside to take a 3-2 win on Friday, October 26. The win snapped a three-match losing streak for the Tigers as Pacific improved to 17-6 overall and 5-5 in the conference while the Highlanders fell to 5-18 on the year and 0-10 in the Big West.
Set scores for the match were: 21-25, 21-25, 25-23, 25-14, 15-11.
For the fourth time in as many matches, the Tigers found themselves playing for their lives in a fifth and decisive set as Pacific stormed back from the brink to get back into the match. Down 2-0 and reeling from a frustrating loss in set two, a set Pacific controlled late, the Tigers recovered and made the necessary adjustments to get back into the match.
In both the third and fourth sets of the night, the Tigers ran out to big early leads that would buoy their victories in each of the frames. Out from the intermission, the Tigers ran off seven of the first eight points of the third set to put the Highlanders on their heels. For Pacific, the run was spurred by a once dormant offense as the Tigers tallied five kills, two of which came from sophomore Gillian Howard. In addition to her kills, Howard grabbed a solo block early in the run to begin turning the defensive tides at the net into Pacific's favor. With the early six point lead, the Tigers were able to withstand late set rallies that pushed the Highlanders back to within just two points three separate times and within one at 24-23.
Despite the recovery act put on by the Highlanders late in the third, the Tigers kept their composure and went back to work on UC Riverside in the fourth. Once again, Pacific built a large early lead at 8-2, scoring kills on five of the first six points of the game, including three-straight by junior Megan Birch to begin the frame. Unlike the third set, the Tigers never let the Highlanders catch their breath and recover as Pacific pulled away for its most lopsided win of the night.
The momentum from the wins in sets three and four put the Tigers in prime position to capture the fifth set, which turned into a back-and-forth battle before Pacific broke the set open with a six-point run. Tied at 5-5, the Tigers took control of the set and the match with a 6-0 run that was spurred by their senior captain Gabby Cowden. After struggling for most of the match, Cowden came up big when needed most as Pacific's leader picked up a pair of kills and a block to break the set open for the Tigers. From there, the Tigers once again held off a mini rally by the Highlanders to come away with their sixth five-set victory of the season.
Prior to taking the final three sets of the night, the Tigers found themselves buried deep in a 2-0 hole as the Highlanders dominated at the net against Pacific both offensively and defensively. Just a month after controlling all aspects of the match against UC Riverside, Pacific found itself on the wrong end of a fierce attack led by Ashley Cox. For the night, Cox threw down six kills in each of the first four sets while ending her night with a match-high 27. With Cox pounding away at the pins, the Highlanders ran away with the opening set to grab the early lead. One set later, it was a late rally by the Highlanders that stunned the Tigers as Pacific saw a two-point, 21-19, advantage disappear behind a six-point Highlander run. During the run, the Tigers committed four errors at the net, two forced by UC Riverside blocks while two others came as unforced mistakes.
Overall, the Tigers were able to come up with the five-set win as Pacific found its groove offensively late including posting a .353 hitting percentage in the final set. Pacific was led into the fray by their senior setter, Hannah Clancy, who returned from injury after a five-match hiatus. Clancy finished her night with her 13th double-double of the season as she posted 42 assists and 17 digs. On her first set of the second set, Clancy became the sixth Tiger in program history to reach 3,000 assists for her career. She finished the night with 3,031 assists for her career. Additionally, she added seven kills on eight attacks as Clancy finished off the Highlanders with her final dump of the night on match point.
Offensively, Birch led the way with a team-high 15 kills on .387 hitting while Cowden finished her night with 11 kills. Defensively, Howard posted a match-best eight blocks including posting a career-high four solo efforts. Despite struggling offensively, junior Jennifer Sanders made her presence felt on the net with five blocks including two solo efforts as the Tigers outblocked the Highlanders 13.0-to-10.0, overall.
For UC Riverside, the night belonged to Cox as the freshman posted 27 kills on .338 hitting while tallying 17 digs and four blocks. Amanda Vialpando added 13 kills on .115 hitting while Megan Reza ended her night with 12 kills on 20 attacks. Vialpando finished her night with a double-double after posting 17 digs alongside of Cox while freshman setter Emily Borges added 50 assists and 11 digs.
The Tigers will look to close out their two-week road trip with another victory as Pacific heads to Cal State Fullerton on Saturday, October 27. The two teams meet at 7:00 pm with Pacific looking for the season-sweep of the Titans.