The University of Redlands women's volleyball team closed out the final day of the Cal-Lu-Fornia Invite with split results for a solid 6-2 start to the season. Earlier in the day, the Bulldogs swept Willamette University (OR), 25-17, 25-16, 25-23, before falling to Hardin-Simmons University (TX) in straight sets.
Against the Willamette Bearcats, the Maroon and Gray came out firing at a .244 clip on offense in the first frame. Redlands broke a 5-5 tie and pulled away with the win, thanks in part to tough serving by junior outside hitter Christina Casey (Sherwood, OR). This inspired quality hitting from junior outside hitter Melanie Fyda (Chicago, IL), junior middle blocker Sofia Olsson (Cupertino, CA), and first-year outside hitter Natalie Starlin (Las Vegas, NV). Sophomore right-side hitter Savannah Casey (Encinitas, CA) put the exclamation point on the quality start with a kill to make it 25-17.
Redlands upped the ante on its offense with a .308 showing in the second set, which included great ball distribution by first-year setter Tati Luevano (San Pablo, CA). She successfully found a barrage of hitters, including junior right-side hitter Maloree Kupp (Sunnyside, WA) and junior middle blocker Michaela Rappa (Roseville, CA). In addition to her excellent setting, senior setter Jackie Andrade (West Seattle, WA) provided momentum-building service aces, which helped the Bulldogs secure the two-set lead.
The third set tested the Maroon and Gray, as the squad nearly relinquished its early 6-1 lead. Despite Willamette's best defensive effort of the match, the Bulldogs never trailed and stayed on track for the sweep.
Fyda put up 10 kills on 13 swings for a remarkable hitting percentage of .769. Olsson chipped in six kills and four block assists, while Starlin added seven kills. Busch paced the Bulldogs with 22 digs.
During the second match, Redlands struggled to find its rhythm both on serve receive and offense, leading to the straight-set stumble against HSU. The Cowgirls registered six more kills and six more aces in an otherwise tight battle that resulted in scores of 25-21, 25-17, 25-23.
Olsson led the Maroon and Gray with nine kills at a clip of .375, as Luevano dished out 22 assists. Busch remained steady from the back row by supplying 17 digs.
Redlands (6-2) opens Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) action on Friday, September 14, with a road trip to Chapman University. First serve is set for 7 p.m.