Opening a two-match road trip in the Pacific Northwest, LMU (10-6, 3-2 WCC) posted an impressive 25-22, 25-23, 25-17 sweep of Portland (12-5, 3-2 WCC) from the Chiles Center in Portland, Ore. The Pilots entered the match sitting in a tie for third place in the WCC standings. With the win, LMU has now won 13 straight matches over the Pilots.
LMU managed a respectable .246 hitting percentage in the sweep, receiving a match-best 15 kills from sophomore Megan Rice. Rice hit .316 over 38 swings, teaming that mark with three digs and a block. LMU, which closed the match with 10 blocks, received seven block assists from redshirt-freshman Alexis Morrow. Morrow teamed the blocks with five kills. Setter Tess Reid collected the lone double-double for the Lions, pairing 16 assists with 12 digs. Sophomore Jessie Prichard handled the other half of the setting duties, finishing with 20 assists and eight digs. In addition to the blocks, LMU was strong in other aspects of the defensive game, collecting 60 total digs behind 15 from Kristen Castellanos and 14 from Savannah Slattery.
"We had a really solid week of prep and the team was fired up and ready to compete," first-year head coach Aaron Mansfield said. "We came out a little tight in the first set, but the team made a nice adjustment to settle into the match and be ourselves. Portland is a very good team, we made a lot of nice defensive plays that allowed us to string together some points at key times. It was a great team win for us."
LMU trailed 19-14 in the first set, but the Lions won 10 of the next 12 points to take a 24-21 set-point lead. Hannah Troutman, who led Portland with 11 kills on the night, kept the period alive with her fifth kill of the opener, but Morrow connected for her fourth on five swings in the first to hand LMU the set win. The Lions hit .405 as a team in the first, out-swinging Portland at a strong .385 on the other side of the net. LMU's blocking game proved to be a benefit down the stretch, as LMU utilized the block to register points 20 and 23. Megan Rice led the way on the attack, posting five kills on 10 errorless swings for a .500 hitting clip.
The Lions managed to take a close second set after falling behind early in the period. Trailing 6-2, LMU rattled off four straight points to draw even at 6-6. After trading points to 8-8, LMU captured five of the next six points, including the final tally on a block from Meredith Teague and Morrow, to take a 13-9 lead. A Reid ace, one of two in the set for LMU, pushed LMU to a 19-15 lead. The Pilots managed to cut the deficit to one at 21-20 following a kill from Reghan Pukis and a Lion attack error, but Emma Johnson posted a kill and a block over the next three straight LMU points to hand the Lions a 24-20 set-point advantage. Portland had one last run in it, forcing a Lion timeout at 24-22 en route to eventually drawing back within a point at 24-23, but Sara Kovac connected on the ensuing play for one of her 10 match kills to send LMU into the locker room leading 2-0 in the match score.
While LMU hit just .171 as a team in the third, the Lions held Portland to a -.073 clip on the other side of the net, highlighted by six LMU blocks. Just as it did in the first set, LMU came from behind in the final stanza to earn the sweep. The Lions trailed 13-9 following a Pukis service ace, but the Lions won five straight, including two on blocks, to earn a 14-13 lead and force a Portland timeout. LMU continued to play strong down the stretch, winning eight of nine points from 15-15 to claim a 23-16 lead and run away with the set. Teague was involved in two blocks during that stretch, helping guide LMU to the six in the final period. Following a kill that pushed LMU to match point at 24-17, Kovac served up LMU's third ace of the night to seal the sweep.
LMU, which has won three straight WCC matches, will look to keep it going on Saturday when it travels to Gonzaga for a Noon match. The Bulldogs are currently 5-0 in WCC play and sit in first place with #8 BYU. Both Gonzaga and BYU managed five-set victories on Thursday night.
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