Photo by: Tony Leon/ActionWestPhotography.com
REDLANDS, Calif. – The Whittier College Volleyball team has had a tough five match stretch over the last two weeks with four of the five going the distance. Tuesday evening the Purple & Gold were tested by the University of Redlands edging the Bulldogs in five 22-25, 27-25, 25-19, 25-27, 15-8.
Whittier moves back to .500 at 8-8 and improves to 5-3 SCIAC. Redlands on the other hand drops to 7-9, 1-7 SCIAC.
WC found themselves trailing early in the first set 16-7 and again at 20-13 before they found their rhythm. Following a UR service error, the Poets used back to back strikes from Abby Salmon (Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.) and Jazmyn Sudbrook-Johnson (Fremont, Calif.) to cut the deficit to three. Soon after, kills by Kathea Schamblin (Bakersfield, Calif.) and Alaina Rhee (Kent, WA) would move the score to 22-21. Franki Piloto (Ontario, Calif.) then pulled WC within one again at 23-22 with another kill but that's as close as they would get as Redlands would tack on the final two points to go on top 1-0.
The second set went back and forth with the Poets holding Redlands to just .100 hitting. They jumped all over the Bulldogs 11-5 but saw that lead evaporate as UR battled back to tie things up at 13-13 following five unanswered. The game would remain tied on eight different occasions after that. Redlands had a set point at 24-23 following a ball handling error but that was soon erased as freshman Katelyn Popoff (Hacienda Heights, Calif.) would connect to tie things up at 24-24, before adding another two kills that secured the second set.
Whittier controlled the third set and began firing on all cylinders. Despite trailing early 15-13, WC didn't back down using eight of the next ten points to swing the momentum taking a 21-17 lead. During the run Aubrey Caires (Gardnerville, NV) came alive with two strikes and Makenzie Thieme (Corona, Calif.) added another. Redlands tried to keep it close pulling within two at 21-19 but the final four points would go to Whittier capped off with a service ace from Camryn Purdom (Moreno Valley, Calif.) putting the Poets on top 2-1.
Facing a must win scenario in the fourth set, the Bulldogs answered hitting .390 with 20 kills, which proved crucial for them to even the match. Despite hitting .267, the Poets still saw themselves in the match with chances to secure the win. Whittier held a 15-11 lead and another at 17-15. Four straight by UR would put them on top at 19-17 and despite five ties down the stretch, the Poets weren't able to get over the hump as Redlands would secure the final two points of the frame forcing a fifth and decisive set.
In the final stanza, Whittier came out hitting .357, while holding Redlands to a .000 hitting percentage. The Poets capitalized off of four UR errors early to lead 7-4 and then opened the flood gates adding six of the next seven points behind a pair of kills by Thieme. Trailing 13-5, Redlands attempted a comeback with three points to pull within six but the rally would stop short as an attacking error by Hannah Lanyon would hand the Poets the road victory.
Popoff had the game of her career putting together a 19 kill effort on 49 attempts to hit .265. She also added 26 digs and three service aces. Thieme registered 16 kills and Rhee chipped in with nine kills and four blocks, while hitting .316.
Whittier remains on the road this weekend but returns to non-conference action as they take part in the La Verne Invite October 5-6. Over the two days they will take on DeSales, UC Santa Cruz, Mass-Boston, and Nazareth.