The Lady Oaks began their 2012 campaign in dominating fashion this past weekend, rolling off wins in all three matches of the Holiday Inn Express Invitational hosted by UC Merced. Menlo took care of business on Friday with a three set sweep against West Coast Baptist, before earning two hard fought five set victories over Oregon Tech and Embry Riddle. The 3-0 start marks the best opening in the Menlo career of third year Head Coach Daniel Rasay, and has not been seen by the program in the last ten years.
"The previous two years we went ‘o-for' our first couple of tournaments, so now we have something to build on," said Rasay on his team's exciting beginning to the 2012 season. "We don't have as much doubt looming over our heads because of numerous losses, instead we have some wins to learn from."
Friday's match featured a powerful Lady Oaks squad that wasted no time in taking out West Coast Baptist. Menlo came through with set wins of 25-15, 25-10, and 25-10 for their first "W" of the year. Back-to-back Second Team All-Cal Pac recipient Stephenie Monderine led the charge with a team high eight kills, one of five Oaks to have as many as four. Newcomers Nicole Yap and Emily Tonascia chipped in with five and four respectively, with Yap sporting a solid .333 attack percentage and Tonascia at a remarkable .571 clip.
The trend continued for Yap a day later as Menlo squared off with a strong Oregon Tech squad in the afternoon's opening match. Yap delivered a match high 16 kills as the Lady Oaks stayed off elimination after trailing two sets to one. Menlo found a way to rattle off an impressive 25-14 victory in the fourth set, before officially sealing the deal on win number two with a 15-10 nod in the deciding fifth set. Yap excelled, but equally as remarkable was sophomore Courtney Calicdan, who was playing in just her second game since suffering a season ending injury early last year. The outside hitter from Honolulu, HI notched 15 kills and a match leading 25 digs.
"Courtney did well in her return," said the aforementioned Coach Rasay. "Just to have her on the court is big. She has a presence both offensively and defensively that helps solidify our team a little bit more. She had her ups and downs, but played really well against Oregon Tech which helped us win that match."
Menlo's tournament finale against Embry-Riddle played out very similar to the OIT match, as once again it took five sets to decide a winner. However this time it was the Eagles that fought back from two sets to one to force the final fifth set, but ultimately it was still the Lady Oaks' day. Menlo wrapped up their third straight win with a 15-5 final set showing. Yap once again paved the way with a team leading 17 kills, only outdone by Riddle's Mahlet Lee who struck for 23 kills. Seniors Mika Mendoza and Angie Larsen compiled stellar performances in their own right, as Mendoza had a game high 33 digs, and Larsen led all players with 46 assists.
The Lady Oaks will play in their second tournament in as many weeks, as they get set for the Concordia Asics/Wyndham Hotel Labor Day Tournament. Menlo will take on 24th ranked Westmont, 3:00pm on Saturday, September 1st, before squaring off against San Diego Christian at 7:00pm.