Volleyball Gives Away Late Lead, Falls at Loyola Marymount

Jensen Cunningham (23) notched a season-best 10 total blocks on Thursday night.
Jensen Cunningham (23) notched a season-best 10 total blocks on Thursday night.

LOS ANGELES — Santa Clara volleyball stormed out of the gates in the deciding set against Loyola Marymount on Thursday night. The Broncos led 8-3 before the host Lions closed the frame on a 12-4 run to take the West Coast Conference match.

The Lions (11-7, 4-3 WCC) defeated the Broncos (8-11, 1-6 WCC) 25-17, 25-27, 13-25, 25-23, 15-12 at Gersten Pavilion in the first meeting of the teams this season. 

Santa Clara took its five-point lead in the fifth set on the strength of three kills and a block from Jensen Cunningham; Michelle Gajdka had two kills and a block during the stretch.

Savannah Slattery kick-started the Lions with a kill and followed up with an ace to make the score 8-5 Broncos. Megan Rice committed an attack error and bounced back with three kills during a 6-0 run that put LMU on top 11-9. Sara Kovac, who led all players with 17 kills, registered the final two kills of the night. 

Cunningham hit .483 with 16 kills and a season-high 10 total blocks for the Broncos, who have taken their last three defeats to five sets. Chloe Loreen posted the third double-double of her freshman season with 14 kills and 13 digs. Kirsten Mead totaled 52 assists to top the 50-assist mark for the third time in four matches.

Kovac and Rice (15 kills) paced LMU offensively. Kristen Castellanos set the tone defensively by leading all players with 21 digs for the Lions, who have won four of their last five matches.

Loreen was nearly unstoppable for the Broncos in the second set, hitting .888 with eight kills on nine swings. The Broncos hit .354 in the frame, and parlayed their momentum into a dominant third stanza. They won the first four points en route to an 8-3 lead and held no less than a five-point advantage the rest of the way.

The Lions took command of the first set by winning six straight points to go in front 11-6. The Broncos committed five attack errors during the spree, two of which were on LMU blocks. After the hosts took their biggest lead of the fourth set at 20-16, the Broncos won three straight points to make it 20-19. The teams traded the next nine points as the Broncos pulled within a point four more times prior to LMU forcing the fifth set. 

The Broncos and Lions play for the second time this season on Saturday, Nov. 11 in Leavey Center.


Santa Clara travels to Malibu, California for a WCC matchup at Pepperdine on Saturday. First serve is set for noon at Firestone Fieldhouse. The Waves (12-8, 4-3 WCC) swept San Francisco at home on Thursday night.


• The Broncos are 34-39 all-time against LMU.

• Santa Clara hit .348 or better in the second (.354), third (.348) and fifth (.368) sets.

• Cunningham has double-digit kills in four straight matches and 14 of 19 contests overall this season. 

• Lion head coach Aaron Mansfield spent the previous five seasons on Santa Clara's coaching staff (2012-16), including three years as associate head coach.


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