The University of Redlands women's volleyball team hosted a tri-match on Saturday in Currier Gym and squared off with Caltech in Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) action, before taking on in-region foe UC Santa Cruz. Against the Beavers, the Bulldogs cruised to a three-set sweep by scores of 25-21, 25-15, 25-14, while utilizing nearly every available player. The UCSC match provided a solid test for the Maroon and Gray but the home team prevailed in a nail-biter, 16-25, 25-23, 25-21, 23-25, 15-12.
During the first match, the Beavers kept things close until Redlands broke open a 13-all tie with a well-balanced offense that included senior outside hitter Addison Fonseca (Santa Cruz, CA) and freshman middle hitters Sammi Tafoya (Granite Bay, CA) and Sofia Olsson (Cupertino, CA). After the Bulldogs battled through a few error-riddled stretches, sophomore setter Jackie Andrade (Seattle, WA) sealed the first-set win with a crafty kill.
Redlands took control in the second stanza by stretching a one-point lead to a 17-10 advantage, thanks in part to the stellar blocking of Olsson, Andrade, and freshman opposite Megan Houston (Normandy Park, WA). Freshman outside hitter Christina Casey's (Sherwood, CA) attacking presence along the net also boded well for the Maroon and Gray during this run. From here, the Bulldogs cruised through the final point while taking care of business and minimizing errors.
The third set saw a libero switch, putting freshman defensive specialist Lauren Lux (San Jose, CA) in the back-row, driver's seat. Following a slow start to the stanza, Redlands came on strong with senior defensive specialist Alex Michel (Loma Linda, CA) leading the charge from the service line, as the Bulldogs fired off 11-straight points under her direction. Three of these points came off of the hot hand of Olsson, who consistently found hardwood for the home team. Leading 22-11, the Bulldogs kept to their game plan and secured the sweep in fine fashion.
Andrade finished her first start of the season with 26 assists, while Olsson knocked down 12 kills for a .500 hitting percentage. Lux patrolled the back row with a relentless pursuit of the ball as the only player in double figures with 12 digs.
Against Santa Cruz, the Bulldogs' offense was not clicking in the early goings, which allowed the visitors to jump out to a quick, one-set lead.
However, Redlands regrouped in the second set with determination and efficiency. With the scored tied at 12, the Bulldogs created a slight lead on back-to-back kills by sophomore outside hitter Kaylee Burdick (Sun Valley, CA) and Casey, as senior setter Ellie McLeod (Redlands, CA) orchestrated the offense. From here, the Maroon and Gray continued to roll, with Olsson finding hardwood to make it 15-13. As UCSC struggled with error after error, Redlands simply stayed in front, with McLeod's kill completing the second-set victory.
The Bulldogs maintained this momentum in the third set, as an early tie was broken with quality play at the net. Houston and Olsson combined efforts for a big block to make it 11-10, before Michel fired off a service ace. Although the Banana Slugs tied it up again at 16, Redlands continued to press and forced multiple long rallies that ended in its favor. Burdick, Olsson, and Casey led the offense, while Lux, Michel, and junior defensive specialist Abigail Hickman (Phoenix, AZ) remained steady in the back row.
Now up 2-1 in the match scoring, Redlands faced a Santa Cruz team with its back against the wall. The back-and-forth battle continued in the fourth set, with the Banana Slugs taking the early lead. But the Bulldogs refused to go away and cut the deficit to one at 21-22. However, UCSC answered with two-consecutive points for set point, before Redlands held off the Banana Slugs with an impressive solo block by Olsson. Nonetheless, Santa Cruz closed out the set to send this one into a fifth.
Amidst impressive points and exciting rallies, the visitors won the mini-set by an 8-7 margin, but the Maroon and Gray fought back to even the count at nine, 10, and then again at 12. Following back-to-back attack errors by the Banana Slugs, their coach wanted to talk it over and called for a timeout. One last kill by Casey in a broken play resulted in the hard-fought 15-12 comeback victory for the Bulldogs. Watch the play here.
Olsson continues to lead the offensive charge with her .326 showing off of 18 kills. Burdick supplied 12 kills and 16 digs for a double-double. McLeod dished out 38 assists in the win, while Lux stepped in for seven.
Defensively, the Bulldogs had five players in double figures, with Lux pacing the squad with 22 digs. Hickman added 19 digs, while McLeod and Michel combined for 22.
In the non-Redlands match, UC Santa Cruz rolled to a 25-15, 25-12, 25-9 victory over Caltech. Tatum Novitzky led the offense with 20 kills off of a hitting percentage of .833.
Redlands (10-4, 2-3 SCIAC) heads to Whittier College on Tuesday, September 27, for a SCIAC showdown with the Poets at 7 p.m.