It took five hard-fought sets, but LMU volleyball (8-6, 1-2 WCC) outlasted Saint Mary's (5-9, 1-3 WCC) to record a 25-22, 26-28, 25-16, 23-25, 15-11 victory in West Coast Conference play from Gersten Pavilion on Thursday night. The five-set victory was the first in WCC play for first-year head coach Aaron Mansfield.
-- LMULions (@LMULions) September 29, 2017
The Lions served up 12 aces, hit .219 and registered 13 blocks in the win. Five of the 12 aces came from the hand of setter Tess Reid, who also dished out 25 assists to accompany eight digs. Megan Rice, who matched Sara Kovac with a match-high 16 kills, also served up three aces to accompany five digs and five block assists. Alexis Morrow accumulated six block assists, while Emma Johnson totaled two block solos and five block assists. Senior Kristen Castellanos led all players with 25 digs, while sophomore Jessie Prichard led all players with 30 assists while sharing the setting duties with Reid.
-- LMU Volleyball (@LMU_Volleyball) September 29, 2017
Two Saint Mary's players reached double-digit kills, as Lindsey Knudsen and Sarah Chase finished with 11 and 10 kills, respectively. The Gaels were nearly as impressive on the block, teaming for 11 blocks, including two solos and four block assists from Lindsey Calvin.
Savannah Slattery, how had 10 match kills, and Rice each had six kills in the first set as LMU never trailed en route to capturing a 25-22 opening-set victory. With both Slattery and Rice hitting .364 to lead the way, LMU hit .361 as a team while also managing three blocks. LMU's setting duo of Prichard and Reid got off to a stellar start, collecting 10 and nine assists, respectively. The two teams played even to seven, but LMU caught some momentum and eventually opened up a 13-9 lead on the heels of a pair of Slattery kills. Saint Mary's was forced into a timeout at 18-13, but the Gaels rebounded nicely to cut into the deficit, winning four of the next five, to force a Lion timeout at 19-17. The visitors would inch to within a point at 22-21 following a kill from Sienna Young, but LMU fed Slattery and Rice for kills to advance to 24-21 and force the final Saint Mary's timeout. Young connected once more for the Gaels out of the huddle, but Rice capped a stellar first frame with a powerful kill that handed LMU the set.
With its back to the wall, Saint Mary's completed a huge comeback to even the match score at one set apiece. Trailing 24-21, the visitors won three straight points to even the tally at 24-24 before eventually outlasting the Lions, 28-26. Young had two kills while Calvin had her hand in a pair of blocks over the comeback effort, as the Gaels totaled three blocks in the period. After managing just two kills in the opener, Kovac came alive for four kills on five swings in the second, but LMU was limited to just .167 hitting in the setback. Reid, who added six more assists in the second set, also served up LMU's first three aces of the match, including a pair to hand LMU the seemingly secure 21-16 advantage down the stretch.
LMU's serving game stepped up in a big way in the third set, as the Lions managed six aces, including three from Rice. In addition to the strong serving, LMU also hit .345 in the period. The third proved to be a see-saw battle early, but LMU went on a 6-0 run to turn a 10-9 advantage into a 16-9 lead. The Lions cruised from there, eventually reaching set point at 24-15 following an attacking error from Young, and winning the set on a kill from Johnson.
Although LMU opened up an early 6-1 lead in the fourth set, forcing a Gael timeout, Saint Mary's regained its composure and drew back even at 6-6 to begin what proved to be a very tight set. After playing even to 18, LMU once again seemingly took control of the set, winning four straight points, including three on blocks, to open up a 22-18 lead and burn a Saint Mary's timeout. Refusing to surrender, the Gaels would win four unanswered of their own to again draw even at 22-22. Still even at 23-23, Payton Rund and Morgan Hughes combined to stuff Rice to hand Saint Mary's set point at 24-23. Once again utilizing the block, Hughes and Jennifer Laird teamed to reject Kovac on LMU's ensuing attack, sending the match to a fifth and final set. LMU finished the period having posted four blocks to limit Saint Mary's to just .029 hitting, but the Lions hit just .027 while suffering three blocks on the other side of the net.
Playing in a race to 15, LMU trailed 8-7 at the switch. That switch of sides proved to be a big spot for the Lions, as they won six straight points, capped by a Jessie Prichard ace, to earn a 13-8 advantage. Though the Gaels would rally to cut the deficit to three at 14-11, forcing a Lion timeout, LMU received the fifth and final Kovac kill of the finale to put the match away and seal the five-set win.
Let's hear what Head Coach Aaron Mansfield had to say following his first WCC victory! pic.twitter.com/lBQGquMT2X
-- LMU Volleyball (@LMU_Volleyball) September 29, 2017
LMU will remain at home on Saturday to host Pacific at Noon.
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