SPOKANE, Wash. — Santa Clara volleyball played its best West Coast Conference match of 2018 on Thursday night in a five-set tilt at Gonzaga. The Broncos took a 2-1 set lead before the host Bulldogs rallied for a 25-16, 23-25, 23-25, 25-21, 15-12 victory in Martin Centre.
Michelle Shaffer hit .388 and finished with a career-high and match-high 24 kills for the Broncos (5-12, 0-5 WCC), who hit .242 on the night. Chloe Loreen led all players with 18 digs and Tessie Powers topped Santa Clara with 27 assists. Anna McCreadie added 12 kills and Allison Kantor registered a 10-kill, 11-dig double-double.
Sarah Penner led the Bulldogs (5-11, 2-3 WCC) with 17 kills as one of four players on the team to log at least 10 putdowns. Faith Smith led all players with 30 assists and combined with Jenna Keuhn (22 assists) to set Gonzaga to a .298 hitting percentage.
Gonzaga stormed out of the gates in the first set, hitting .516 on its way to winning the most decisive stanza of the contest. The Zags opened and closed the set on a 5-1 run and Penner produced her best attacking set of the match by posting six kills on eight attempts without an error.
Shaffer and McCreadie paced Santa Clara's offense in the second set by nabbing five kills apiece. Santa Clara used a 5-1 spree to take a 7-4 lead and held at least a two-point edge until the tail end of the frame, when Gonzaga staved off two set points to make the score 24-23 Broncos. Kamrin Caoili came through with the set-clinching kill to tie the match.
The Broncos rallied from a 5-0 third-set deficit and took their first lead at 22-21. The teams traded the next five points, culminating in another set-clinching kill by Caoili to put Santa Clara up a set.
Gonzaga produced 10-2 run in the fourth stanza to pull ahead 18-12, and survived a rally that saw the Broncos tie up the score at 20-all and be within one point of the Bulldogs four times. The teams were tied up five times early in the fifth set, before Penner gave Gonzaga a lead it kept for good with a kill to make the count 7-6; she also had the match-clinching kill.
• Santa Clara is 50-13 against Gonzaga in a series that dates back to 1987. The Broncos host the Bulldogs on Nov. 3.
• The home team has won five straight matches in the series.
• Shaffer posted 12-plus kills for the sixth time this season. Her previous career-best mark was 20 kills against Grand Canyon on Aug. 25.
• Kantor has either double-digit kills or digs in six of the team's last seven matches.
Santa Clara faces Portland on Saturday at noon to cap the quick road trip. The Pilots (13-4, 1-4) swept San Francisco at home on Thursday night.
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