Oct. 12, 2006
SPOKANE, Wash. - Once again the No. 17 Santa Clara volleyball team went the distance against the Gonzaga Bulldogs in Spokane, and once again, the Broncos came out victorious in dramatic fashion. SCU got a breakout performance from freshman opposite hitter Nina Sevastopoulos, who turned in 18 kills and five blocks in the 3-2 (25-30, 30-22, 30-27, 28-30, 15-13) win.
The Broncos (13-4, 3-2 WCC) return to action Saturday afternoon with a 1 p.m. contest against the Portland Pilots at the Chiles Center.
Santa Clara got a well-rounded effort from its top hitters Thursday night, as in addition to the play of Sevastopoulos, outside hitter Kim McGiven had a team-high 19 kills to go with 17 digs for her seventh double-double of the year, fellow outside Brittany Lowe had a double-double as well with 17 kills and 15 digs, while Anna Cmaylo added 17 kills and seven blocks. Libero Caroline Walters made 21 digs, while Lindsy Evans dished 71 assists and made 10 digs.
Becky Jones led the Bulldogs (5-14, 0-4 WCC) with 19 kills and 16 digs, while Elaina Renius and Heather Dunn each had eight blocks as the two teams engaged in a defensive affair, with the Broncos hitting only .204 and the Zags only .182.
But the win was a vital one for the Broncos, as it lifts them above .500 in WCC play for the first time in 2006 and puts them in prime position to earn their first weekend sweep in conference play.
Things didn't start out smoothly for SCU Thursday night, as they quickly fell behind 9-2 to start game one. Two kills by Briawna Mueller and a pair of aces helped put the Broncos on their heels right away, but they started to recover, taking four straight points highlighted by a kill and ace by Cmaylo to cut the deficit to three. It stayed at about that margin until, trailing 16-12, the Broncos put three more on the board thanks to a pair of SCU blocks, cutting the lead to one at 16-15, and eventually tying it at 17-apiece with a McGiven kill.
The teams battled back and forth for the next few points, until Gonzaga made a 4-0 run to get ahead 24-20, boosted by three Bronco attack errors. The lead eventually got to 28-22 and the Bulldogs coasted to the 30-25 game one win.
Santa Clara came out firing in the second stanza, grabbing a 3-0 lead which eventually became 7-1 thanks to five errors on the Bulldogs. The Broncos stayed in control for the entire frame, as the lead got to within three just twice, the last time at 17-14, but then SCU powered its way to a 7-0 run behind a pair of McGiven kills and most notably four more Bulldog errors. From there, it was only a matter of time before SCU closed out the game, which they did on a Cmaylo kill for the 30-22 win.
Game three was a tighter affair than the second, but the Broncos began to put distance between themselves and the Bulldogs by building a 9-5 lead on consecutive kills by Lowe. But with the score at 12-9 in favor of SCU, Gonzaga's Mueller made a kill followed by two Bronco errors to knot things up at 12-12. Yet SCU again got out to a lead, this time 19-14 on a 3-0 run sparked by a pair of Megan Pura kills. From this point SCU never gave up its lead, keeping Gonzaga at an arm's length until another Cmaylo kill ended the frame and put the Broncos up 2-1.
But the Bulldogs would not roll over and play dead, showing some fight in the fourth game as they played catch-up for most of it. At the 5-5 mark, the Broncos started quickening the pace, leading 9-7, then getting two points in a row to make it 13-9 as Sevastopoulos made a kill and followed up with a block on the next volley. The SCu lead eventually got to six at 20-14 after a 4-0 run sparked by two McGiven kills, and things still looked safe at 23-19 a few points later.
Yet it wasn't. Trailing by four, Gonzaga got kills from Jones and Renius, and, combined with a block and two Mueller aces, and next thing the Broncos knew they were trailing 24-23 after yielding five straight points. The teams fought to 26-all, but at that point Gonzaga took the next three points, and staved off a Broncos comeback attempt to force the deciding fifth game.
In terms of drama and grit, the fifth frame did not disappoint. Gonzaga jumped to a 2-0 lead, followed by a 3-0 Bronco run, which was in turn answered with a 3-0 run by the Bulldogs to make it 5-3. SCU fought back with a Cmaylo kill and two blocks from Pura to go on another 3-0 run and claim a one-point lead.
But Gonzaga answered with yet another three-point burst to re-take the lead at 9-7, but SCU, in keeping with the trend, put up three straight on three consecutive McGiven kills to take the lead back at 10-9. A block by Gonzaga's Dunn tied things up at 10-apiece, but the Broncos put together a pair of quick 2-0 bursts sandwiched around a Gonzaga point to stand at game point at 14-11. The Bulldogs made things interesting with two kills from Jones to come within a point, but Lowe came through and ended matters with the match's final kill to deliver the clutch road win.