Redlands Volleyball Turned back by Pomona-Pitzer in Five Sets
The University of Redlands volleyball team battled it out with the Sagehens of Pomona-Pitzer Colleges in an important Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) match on Friday night but relinquished a two-set lead en route to a heartbreaking 25-12, 25-15, 20-25, 24-26, 15-17 loss. After uncorking an impressive offense in the opening stanzas, the Bulldogs appeared to be heading toward a solid sweep. However, the Sagehens had other plans, forcing the match to go the distance and ultimately handing a difficult defeat to the Maroon and Gray.
During the first frame, Redlands blew open an early two-all lead with four consecutive kills, two of which came from senior outside hitter Sam Dodson (Alamogordo, NM). In addition, the unstoppable duo of sophomore middle blocker Maddi Clark (Escondido, CA) and junior outside hitter Morgan Buckner (San Rafael, CA) fired off 11 of the team's 18 kills en route to the solid 25-12 performance.
The Bulldogs continued to roll through the second set, pulling away from a six-all score with sophomore right-side hitter Jackie Starks (Long Beach, CA) at the service line. During this four-point stretch, Redlands won every rally with either a kill or a block.
The team repeated its offensive prowess of the first stanza, recording a hitting percentage of .308, which was just off of its preliminary clip of .311. The usual suspects played their part, while Dodson continued to shine and freshman middle blocker Ashton Martin (Redlands, CA) found her rhythm by notching three straight kills to finish off the 25-15 rout.
However, Pomona-Pitzer refused to go away quietly, mustering an early lead in the third set, which held up through 19-19. The Bulldogs nabbed their only lead of the set at 20-19 when junior setter Alisha Cornick (Hollister, CA) put the ball away on a second touch.
The Sagehens responded with five straight points to win the third set and remain in the match.
Still leading 2-1, Redlands sat in the driver's seat to pull out the much needed victory. A back-and-forth battle ensued, with neither team gaining much of an edge through the final points of the set. The Bulldogs served on match point at 24-23 but Pomona-Pitzer's Emma Burdekin found hardwood for a critical kill. That momentum shift was all the Sagehens needed, as they looked to Michelle Schultz for consecutive kills for the stay-alive fourth set.
The deciding fifth stanza included much of the same, as both squads hit effectively and played tough defense to keep things close.
Redlands gained a small lead at 10-7 when Clark knocked down one of her 14 kills of the night. But the Sagehens came storming back to take the lead at 14-12 for the match. The Bulldogs staved off the opponents' first opportunity to win with back-to-back kills by Martin and Dodson, and then survived another match-point opportunity when Martin notched another put-away.
The third attempt proved to be the charm for Pomona-Pitzer, as Redlands finally succumbed to the loss when the Sagehens put up an effective block.
Despite the disappointment, the Maroon and Gray showed its talent with four players in double-digit kills, including Buckner with a team-high 20. She was joined by Martin and Dodson with 16 apiece, and Clark with 14. The squad hit .212 as a group, surpassing the Sagehens' mark of .174.
Cornick recorded 57 assists as the team's top ball-distributor. Defensively, junior libero Brittney Overgaag (Palm Desert, CA) led the match with 30 digs.
Pomona-Pitzer (8-7, 3-4 SCIAC) gained 21 kills from Shultz and 10 from Ellen Yamasaki. Dani Kritter dished out 41 assists and supplied 19 digs.
Redlands (5-7, 1-5 SCIAC) looks to rebound when it heads to Cal Lutheran University on Saturday for a 7 p.m. showdown with the first-place Regals.