LINCOLN, Neb. — Santa Clara volleyball won both its matches on opening day of the Ameritas Players Challenge Friday to make it three straight victories on the young 2018 season. The Broncos dispatched Wake Forest 25-20, 25-22, 21-25, 25-16 in the morning session, then swept Ohio 29-27, 25-18, 25-20 at the Devaney Center.
The Broncos (4-2) have won nine of their last 10 sets going back to Tuesday's home sweep of Sacramento State.
Michelle Shaffer, Michelle Gajdka and Alexa Dreyer each had 20 kills between the two matches as the Broncos won their first head-to-head meetings against the Demon Deacons and Bobcats in program history.
MATCH 1: Broncos Bank on Balance for Second Straight Win
Gajdka led the Broncos with 13 kills, marking her fourth consecutive match with 11-plus kills; she had 11 digs for a double-double. Ngozi Nwabuzoh (10 kills) also made it four matches in a row with double-digit putdowns. Taylor Odom hit an efficient .438 and churned out nine kills. Dreyer (nine kills) and Shaffer (eight kills) rounded out a group of five Broncos that finished with at least eight kills in the win.
Leading 2-1 and facing a 13-12 deficit in the fourth set, Santa Clara won nine straight points and 13 of the last 16 to secure the match. Gajdka registered three of her six kills for the set during the 9-0 run.
Santa Clara held as large as a five-point advantage in the opening set at 17-12 prior to a Wake Forest (0-4) rally that knotted the score at 19-all. Santa Clara won the next five points and six of the final seven in a span that featured two kills and a block by Odom.
The Broncos led 21-15 in the second frame before Wake Forest won seven of 10 points to stay within striking distance. The Demon Deacons battled through three set points to make the score 24-22, then Shaffer came through with a kill to give Santa Clara a two-set lead.
The Demon Deacons dominated the early part of the third set, winning 10 of the first 12 points on their way to a 14-4 lead. Caitlyn Della notched four of her seven kills for the set in the first 15 points. Santa Clara pulled within three points twice, as late as 24-21, but could not recover from the initial deficit. Caroline Rassenfoss finished the set with a kill; she led all players with 15 kills for the match.
MATCH 2: Santa Clara Offense Fires on All Cylinders in Afternoon Sweep
Liliana Light set the Broncos to a .316 hitting percentage for the match, including a blistering .481 mark in the second set. Shaffer led all players with 12 kills on .385 hitting and added 12 digs for a double-double; she also served up a match-best three aces. The outside hitter has posted 11-plus digs in four straight matches. Dreyer hit .647 with 11 kills and did not commit an error in her 17 attack attempts.
The Broncos made the first significant push of the match in the first set, using two kills by Nwabuzoh in an 8-1 run to take a 9-4 lead. Katie Nelson helped Ohio (1-4) get on two set points at 24-22 with a pair kills and a block assist as part of a 5-1 run. Santa Clara fought off both set points and another one after falling behind 25-24. Dreyer and Shaffer broke a 27-all deadlock — one of 15 ties in the set — with kills to give the Broncos the early lead.
Nelson led Ohio with nine kills. She had seven kills on eight attempts in a clean first set. The Broncos held her to two kills on 16 attempts the rest of the way.
In a close second frame, Santa Clara had 15 kills with only two errors on 27 attack attempts for their most efficient set of Friday's action. The Broncos took a 10-8 lead on one of Light's seven kills for the contest and led by at least two points the rest of the way.
Leading the match 2-0, Santa Clara produced an 8-3 stretch to take an 18-13 lead and stayed in front the rest of the way. Ohio kept pace late into the set, taking four of five points to pull within one at 21-20 just before the Broncos won four straight points to complete the sweep. Light had an ace and a kill to put the Broncos on match point and Kamrin Caoili clinched the tilt with a kill.
Santa Clara takes on No. 5 Nebraska — the defending national champion and tournament host — on Saturday at noon PDT.
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