CLAREMONT, CA. – For the first time in over 20 years, the Pomona-Pitzer Women's Volleyball Team is 4-0 in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference after edging out Whittier College 3-2 in the five-set thriller (25-19, 22-25, 21-25, 25-18, 15-6) on Saturday night at Voelkel Gymnasium.
"I am very pleased with the team and their performance tonight," said Head Coach Valerie Townsend. "This was a hard fought match and I thought the team had a fantastic defensive outing. We were able to frustrate their hitters and capitalize on it. Whittier is a tough team and this was a very good win for us. The team is off to a great start in conference and gaining more and more confidence by the match."
The defense made all the difference for the Sagehens, as the home side stuffed 10 total blocks while the Poets only had 5. In addition, the Sagehens completed 55 total kills as a team while the Poets delivered 38. Julia Zwaal led the Sagehens with a season-high 19 kills and three service aces while Sophie Janssen came through with 36 digs. Vicky-Marie Addo-Ashong and Isabel Kelly posted nearly identical stats, delivering 11 kills each and five assisted blocks.
"We have really worked on defense and competing in practice, both things that have helped us in recent matches," said Coach Townsend. "This team has a lot of heart and fight in them. It is nice to see their hard work pay off. If you show up and compete in this conference, good things can and have happened for us. We just have to keep plugging away at it."
Season Impact: The Sagehens are now 6-6 overall and 4-0 in the SCIAC.
Trailing 17-16 in the opening set, the Sagehens called a timeout to regroup. Zwaal answered the call, delivering a booming kill off a pass by Adrienne Tong to tie the game 17-17. Tong followed with a service ace and the Poets committed an attacking error as Pomona-Pitzer led 19-17. After an attacking error by Zwaal, the Sagehens started scoring again, going on a 5-0 rally thanks to two kills by Isabel Kelly and Zwaal capped the rally with a service ace to make it 24-18. An attacking error by the Poets gave the Hens the set.
The Poets responded by taking the next two sets 25-22 and 25-21. However, the Sagehens refused to give the match away, battling hard in the fourth set. Tied at 6-6, the Sagehens compiled a 5-1 rally to build a respectable lead, thanks to kills by Zwaal, Kelly, and Gaby Harrison. Later with a 14-11 lead, the Sagehens rallied again with four straight points as Addo-Ashong delivered a huge kill and Franki Piloto committed three straight attacking errors. Ahead 24-19, the Sagehens took the fourth set off a service error from the Poets.
The Sagehens' offense kicked into another gear in the final set, going on a 10-2 run, including three kills by Zwaal and a kill each by Harrison, Addo-Ashong, and Kelly. Leading 13-6, Addo-Ashong shut the door on the Poets, delivering a booming kill off a pass by Tong. She followed up with a huge stuff on Poets' Makenzie Thieme alongside Harrison to seal the match 15-6.
Up Next: The Sagehens will next travel to Orange, California to take on SCIAC opponent Chapman University on Tuesday, September 25 at 7:00 p.m.