The University of Redlands women's volleyball team squared off against the Whittier College Poets on Saturday afternoon in Currier Gym during Homecoming weekend. In a back-and-forth battle between comparable opponents, the Bulldogs competed in a five-set thriller for just the second time this season. Unfortunately for the Maroon and Gray, the momentum leaned toward the Poets in the final set, resulting in a 25-14, 13-25, 25-21, 18-25, 11-15 loss for the home team.
Redlands came out on fire in the opening set and earned a 6-1 lead off the hot hands of the front line. Freshman outside hitter Christina Casey (Sherwood, OR) led the charge by knocking down four kills during this stretch.
The Bulldogs continued to put the ball away while using their relentless defense to stymie the Poet offense. Freshman middle hitter Sammi Tafoya (Granite Bay, CA), freshman opposite Megan Houston (Normandy Park, WA), and sophomore outside hitter Kaylee Burdick (Sun Valley, CA0 each added to the home team's attack, while freshman libero Lauren Lux (San Jose, CA) and senior defensive specialist Alex Michel (Loma Linda, CA) stepped up with critical digs.
Freshman middle hitter Sofia Olsson (Cupertino, CA) added to the hit parade later in the stanza, as Redlands cruised to an easy 25-14 win.
The momentum completely shifted in the second set, when Whittier unleashed a hitting percentage of .423.
Nonetheless, the Bulldogs bounced back in the third, snagging a 9-4 lead with big kills by Casey, Houston, Burdick, and Olsson. Tafoya's serve proved to be too hot to handle, as Redlands capitalized for four points during this stint.
The Maroon and Gray stayed ahead and made the necessary adjustments to secure the win, with sophomore setter Jackie Andrade (Seattle, WA) and senior opposite Addison Fonseca (Santa Cruz, CA) providing great support when Head Coach Lisa Lindberg moved her team into a 6-2 offense. Houston stayed hot at the net while adding tough blocking against the Poets' outsides to help Redlands secure the 25-21 win.
Leading two sets to one, Redlands appeared in control. But here came the visitors once again, eventually forcing a fifth and deciding set.
A couple of tough stretches for Redlands provided just enough of a difference for Whittier to steal the win in a 15-11 final frame.
Overall, the teams were very comparable, with Redlands actually earning six more points on the match. Casey provided her best display yet in her young career by firing off 12 kills at a clip of .476. Burdick finished with 14 kills and seven digs, while Houston and Olsson each tallied eight kills. Lux led the defense with 22 digs. McLeod provided 36 assists and 14 digs.
The Bulldogs (12-12, 3-11 SCIAC) take on the University of Antelope Valley in a non-conference match on Tuesday, October 25, at 6 p.m. in Currier Gym.