The University of Redlands women's volleyball team battled it out against the visiting Poets of Whittier College in Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) action on Tuesday night in Currier Gym. Amidst a gritty and hard-fought match, the Bulldogs came out on the wrong side of a five-set thriller, falling by scores of 25-22, 25-27, 19-25, 27-25, 8-15.
Redlands stormed out to a 16-7 lead off a high-flying offense that included kills from five different players. The Bulldogs appeared to be cruising to a first-set win through 21-13 when Whittier found its rhythm and took advantage of a few Redlands miscues.
Nonetheless, the Maroon and Gray regrouped, as first-year setter Tati Luevano (San Pablo, CA) connected with sophomore middle blocker Hannah Lanyon (San Diego, CA) for a timely kill. Redlands also displayed relentless defense during the long rallies, with sophomore libero Ally Busch (Long Beach, CA) effectively patrolling the back row.
While the Poets would not go away, Redlands remained ahead, as junior setter Emily Marty (Chula Vista, CA) dished out assists to Lanyon and junior outside hitter Melanie Fyda (Chicago, IL) to seal the deal on the 25-22 result.
The teams continued to make quality exchanges throughout the second set, with the score staying tight until the very end. At 22- all, the Bulldogs benefitted from a few Poet errors, but the momentum shifted right back to the visiting team. Despite the Maroon and Gray's best efforts, Whittier earned four of the final five points for the slight 27-25 advantage, which evened the match score at one set apiece.
During the third set, an early lead faded for the Bulldogs and left them on the outside looking in late in the stanza.
Now facing a must-win scenario in the fourth, the Maroon and Gray upped the ante on its offense by converting crafty kills with incredible placement and accuracy. The squad earned a .390 hitting percentage with a match-high 20 kills during this set. Fyda started things off right with quality put-aways from early on, while junior outside hitter Christina Casey (Sherwood, OR) and junior middle blocker Michaela Rappa (Roseville, CA) joined the hit parade.
While trailing 11-15, the Bulldogs gained new energy from first-year outside hitter Paige Davidson (Spanaway, WA), who entered the match and made an immediate difference. In addition to knocking down a few kills, she joined Rappa for a wall of a block to make it 18-17.
Late in the set, junior right-side hitter Maloree Kupp (Sunnyside, WA) unleashed three kills before Fyda and Davidson added to the firepower for a slight 26-25 advantage for the Bulldogs. Redlands evened the match at two sets all with one more defensive rally.
Unfortunately, the Bulldogs' luck ran out on in the fifth, as Whittier pulled away to secure a 13-5 advantage. Despite the deficit, Redlands gained huge plays from Kupp and Lanyon, who came up with an impressive block, before Fyda and Casey unleashed must-have kills.
However, the Poets held off the late push and handed the home team a tough loss in five sets.
Overall, Redlands earned one more point than then Poets in a 79-78 showing. The teams also registered similar hitting percentages, with Whittier gaining a slightly better result at .209, as compared to the Bulldogs' .201 effort.
Fyda fired off 18 kills for a .385 hitting percentage in an excellent outing. Kupp joined her among the double-digit kills with 11 on a .391 clip. Marty provided 31 assists, while Luevano dished out 23. Bush finished the night with 22 digs.
Whittier's Katelyn Popoff and Makenzie Thieme combined for 35 of the team's kills
Redlands (7-9, 1-7 SCIAC) takes a short break from conference action by facing off against Nazareth College (NY) at Pomona-Pitzer Colleges on Friday, October 5, at 2:30 p.m.