WASHINGTON – In a back-and-forth five-set road affair against American University in the D.C. Volleyball Challenge, Santa Clara was able to come from behind to post a 25-22, 24-26, 15-25, 25-23, 18-16 victory on Friday in the season opener for both teams.
Sophomore Michelle Gajdka recorded a double-double with career highs in kills (19) and digs (14), and freshman Chloe Loreen tallied 11 kills and 18 digs in her first-career match for the Broncos who posted 12.0 team blocks.
Kirsten Mead also had a double-double, chipping in 43 assists and 13 digs for the Broncos who tallied a .140 attack percentage in a match that lasted nearly three hours.
Kennedy Etheridge had a match-best 45 assists and Kristen Largay registered a match-high 31 digs for the Eagles, a perennial NCAA Tournament participant who were selected to defend their Patriot League title.
After the Eagles easily took the third set, Santa Clara used a 6-0 run, fueled by four attack errors, midway through the fourth to even the match at 2-all. Gajdka sealed it with a pair of kills.
American was able to stave off three match points in the fifth set, which saw 12 ties, before the Broncos closed it out. Tied at 16-all, Gajdka was set up for a kill by Mead who finished the match with her lone kill of the evening.
• Four of the team's five newcomers - Chloe Loreen, Brittany Gillingham, Gretchen Reinert and Tessie Powers – saw action.
• Taylor Laugero, who recorded 471 digs last season, did not play due to injury.
• Tatiana San Juan posted a career-high 25 digs. She tallied 48 in her previous two seasons of action.
"I liked how we played all night. It was a just couple points here and there. When we got down we didn't respond too well at the moment in losing game three so easily was kind of out of our character. I was really proud of how our girls came back and fought, and continued to apply pressure to be able to win the match.
"Jensen Cunningham gave great effort and was a big difference leadership wise. Tessie Powers, who came off the bench, did her job really well tonight and help our team get some points and lead us to a win."
Head coach Jon Wallace
The Broncos continue play in the D.C. Volleyball Challenge on Saturday, with a pair of games at Howard. Santa Clara faces Georgetown at 9 a.m. Pacific and the Bison at 4 p.m.