Playing with PCH Cup points on the line, LMU volleyball (7-5, 0-1 WCC) could not defend its home court, falling in four sets, 25-27, 25-17, 26-24, 25-22, to Pepperdine (9-5, 1-0 WCC) from Gersten Pavilion on Saturday afternoon. The match was the first conference contest of the year for both teams.
For their efforts, the Waves were awarded 1.5 points in the PCH Cup Standings, and now lead 2.5-0 so far this season.
Pepperdine’s blocking game proved to be a difference-maker for the visitors, as the Waves managed 15 team blocks, including nine block assists from Alli O’Harra. Nikki Lyons and Jasmine Gross led the way on the attack, posting 12 and 11 kills, respectively. Heidi Dyer set the attack for Pepperdine, dishing out 38 assists while also collecting 10 digs and three blocks for a double-double.
LMU junior Sara Kovac led all players with 16 kills, and redshirt-freshman Alex Morrow chipped in 10 kills of her own, but the Lions could not get past the Wave block. Setters Jessie Prichard and Tess Reid fell just short of posting double-doubles, as Prichard combined 24 assists with eight digs, and Reid teamed 21 assists with nine digs. Senior Kristen Castellanos did her best to keep the ball off the floor, digging up a match-best 19 digs. While it fell short of Pepperdine’s effort, LMU’s block did manage eight team stuffs, with Emma Johnson collecting a block solo and three block assists.
The service area proved to be a strength for LMU in the setback, as the Lions served up 10 aces, including four from Castellanos. Savannah Slattery had two of her own, but LMU also erred on 10 serves over the four sets.
While LMU led through most of the set, it would have to rally late to record the victory in set one. The Lions held a 16-12 lead following a Castellanos ace, but Pepperdine won seven of the next 10 points to knot the tally at 19-19. LMU would reclaim a lead at 21-20, but the Waves would again go on a run, this time reaching set point at 24-21. Refusing to let the first set get away, the Lions won two points to force a Pepperdine timeout at 24-23. Castellanos’ second ace, one of six in the opener for LMU, knotted the teams at 24-24 and completed the Lion comeback. After trading a point, O’Harra erred on her next attack, pushing LMU to a 26-25 lead and setting the table for Sierra Bartley and Morrow’s set-winning stuff of Lyons. The block was one of three for the Lions in the first set, helping to limit Pepperdine to just .118 hitting. Morrow and Kovac led the way on the attack for LMU, registering five and four kills, respectively.
The Waves led the entire way in the second en route to squaring the match score at one set apiece. The visitors hit .269 and posted five blocks to limit LMU to .024 hitting. A block from Lyons and O’Harra allowed Pepperdine to reach to the 20-point plateau at 20-12 before Dyer and O’Harra, who finished with four block assists in the second period, teamed to stuff Megan Rice to force set point at 24-16. The Lions would get the next point on a kill from Johnson, but Kekai Whitford missed on the ensuing serve, handing the set to Pepperdine.
While it was LMU who came back from a deficit to take the first, Pepperdine utilized a comeback of its own to capture a 2-1 lead in the match score, taking the third set, 26-24. The Lions went on a 5-0 run to open up a 14-9 lead in the middle of the set, but the Waves clawed back even at 21-21 on a kill from Hannah Frohling. In addition to hitting .367 as a team in the third set, the Waves also posted five blocks to run their total to 13 through three periods. The biggest block of the set came in the final point, as Lyons and O’Harra teamed to reject Meredith Teague to earn the victory in the hard-fought tight set that featured 10 tie scores and three lead changes.
Needing to take the fourth to force a fifth and deciding set, LMU served up a pair of aces and managed three blocks, but Pepperdine received four kills apiece from Lyons and O’Harra to capture the match. The Waves once again never trailed in the finale, leaping out to an early 8-3 lead and forcing an early Lion timeout. Although the Lions inched to within one at 10-9, the Waves won four straight points, and six of the next eight, from that spot to seemingly begin to run away with the period. Now trailing 21-14, LMU managed to string together a small run, forcing Pepperdine into a timeout at 22-18, but Pepperdine would eventually reach match point at 24-19 on a kill from O’Harra. Attempting to channel the energy from the first-set comeback, LMU again pushed forward, winning three straight points to force one final timeout from Pepperdine at 24-22. Unfortunately, the second break served its purpose, as O’Harra emerged from the huddle and found the floor for the eighth and final time on the afternoon.
LMU will return to action on Tuesday when it travels to San Diego for an ESPN-televised match against the 17th-ranked Toreros at 6 p.m.
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