SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Jayden Kennedy (13), Kaity Edwards (12) and Roxie Wiblin (10) combined for 35 kills to lead a balanced offensive attack for 17th-ranked San Diego, which downed Santa Clara volleyball 26-24, 25-19, 25-19 on Saturday afternoon in a West Coast Conference matchup at Leavey Center.
Kristen Gengenbacher set up most of those kills for the Toreros (9-3, 2-0) with 31 assists. She added a team-best 10 digs.
Michelle Gajdka registered a double-double for the Broncos (7-7, 0-2) with team highs of 13 kills and 11 digs. Jensen Cunningham chipped in 10 kills on a .500 attack percentage; Santa Clara hit .243 as a team.
San Diego posted a .308 hitting percentage, including a blistering .467 in the third set, one in which the Toreros eventually pulled away for their fifth-straight win.
Since downing then ninth-ranked Kansas, 3-2, on Sept. 15, the Broncos have dropped three in a row, though two came at the hands of top 25 teams. No. 9 BYU defeated Santa Clara, 3-0, on Thursday, also in Leavey Center.
In the final set, Edwards, who hit .526 on the day, registered four kills in a stretch where San Diego snapped an 11-all tie to build a 19-14 lead. The Broncos closed to within 19-16, but USD reeled off three straight points, with a kill from Kennedy capping it off.
Santa Clara had leads in each of the first two sets.
"We have to find a way to maintain our good level," head coach Jon Wallace said. "Right now we are a little spotty here and there. We have some good weapons — we just have to work some things out."
In the first set, Gajdka had four of the team's first seven kills helping the Broncos to a 12-9 lead, but the Toreros became more efficient on offense with a kill from Edwards giving them a 17-14 edge.
A Gajdka kill snapped a 19-all tie, the fifth of the opening set, and sparked a 3-0 run. But after calling a timeout, the Toreros got back-to-back kills from Gengenbacher and Kennedy. Gajdka tied it at 24-all with a kill, but Kennedy and Edwards closed the set with back-to-back kills.
The Broncos led 11-5 in the second set, but San Diego took advantage of three errors to knot the score at 12-all. Kennedy fueled a 5-1 run to give the Toreros a 20-15 edge and Santa Clara never closed the gap.
• Gajdka (13) posted double-digit kills for the eighth time this season. She had seven kills in the opening set on a .636 attack percentage. Gajdka posted her fourth double-double of the season.
• Cunningham (10) recorded her 10th match with double-digit kills on the year.
• Kirsten Mead registered 41 assists, her third-highest total of the season and fourth time with 40 or more.
"We have a prideful group. We're not going to like being 0-2 in conference whether we're playing the two best teams or not. We have to rebound and play our brand of volleyball throughout the match.
"Our middles are doing well right now. Taylor Odom and Jensen Cunningham are doing a lot for us both offensively and defensively. Michelle had a nice bounce-back game from the other night. She put up some good numbers.
"The bottom line is we just have to find a way to sustain our high level of play. We're not there yet. But the girls are working hard to get there. I do believe in this group and I think we can."
- Head coach Jon Wallace
The Broncos play three matches next week, beginning with a road meeting with Pacific at 7 p.m. Tuesday. Gonzaga visits Leavey Center on Thursday (7 p.m.). The Broncos round out the busy stretch by hosting Portland on Saturday (1 p.m.).
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