ROCKLIN, Calif. – Coming off the heels of a perfect beginning to the season, the competition was upped for Menlo Women's Volleyball in the final day of the William Jessup Invitational. They were not able to "run away" with the matches like they did one day ago, playing in two tightly contested matches. The end results saw the Oaks splitting their two contests, dropping their opener to Life Pacific College in the fifth and final set, while sweeping University of Antelope Valley in straight sets to improve their record to 3-1 after the first two days of competition.
Menlo vs. Life Pacific College (28-30, 21-25, 25-18, 28-26, 12-15)
If you were looking for arguably the best match of the William Jessup Invitational, you might have found it with this one between the Oaks and Warriors. The scores listed above tell the story, as all five sets featured some fantastic volleyball from both squads. The Oaks opened up the first set with an 8-3 advantage thanks to several contributors, highlighted by a pair of blocks from Maggie McDonald, picking up where she left off after a solid day one. This thing would tighten up however, and actually saw the Oaks trail 19-15 at one point after the Warriors took six of seven points to pull away from a tie set. The Oaks would not go down quietly, though, with Bailey Gamez providing an ace and a kill, and a pair of big kills from Kenzie Carpenter to tie it at 22-22. The match proceeded to enter the extra rounds with both teams knotted up at 24-24, and despite taking a 28-27, the Oaks could not put it away, and the Warriors took the next three points to escape with a 30-28 win.
Set two was just as back-and-forth as the opener, only this time it was that way from the onset. Neither team led by more than three points en route to a 20-20 tie late in the set. After a timeout from Menlo, the Warriors went on another late surge to take eight of the final ten points and win set two 25-21, putting the Oaks on the brink of defeat. They came back determined in the third set, though, led by a strong opening from Sierra Buscher, who aided the early cause for victory with a service ace and kill to put the Oaks up 6-4. This, of course, would not last long, with the score staying even for a majority of the set. This time it would be the Oaks taking the late lead on a powerful run, when they trailed 15-13. Coming out of a timeout, Buscher went back to serve and helped get the Oaks seven consecutive points, with Moea Kekauoha getting a pair of blocks during the run. Maggie McDonald sealed it with a couple of kills to give the Oaks a 25-18 win.
Three points was again the largest deficit either team faced during the entire fourth set, which again included some bonus volleyball. Buscher again provided back-to-back kills late in the fourth to give the Oaks a 20-17 lead, getting closer to forcing a fifth set. The Warriors came back to tie it at 23-23, and held a 26-25, nearing a four-set victory. Thanks to some errors from the Life Pacific side, the Oaks took the final three points and won 28-26, forcing a decisive fifth set. The Oaks had the early momentum in this final set, leading 7-3 after a kill from Kekauoha and consecutive aces from Buscher. Life Pacific called a timeout and the entire dynamic of the set changed. With the Oaks leading 11-10, the Warriors took five of the final six points to narrowly take down the unbeaten Oaks 15-12.
Menlo vs. University of Antelope Valley (25-13, 26-24, 25-22)
The Oaks came out ready to avenge their first loss of the season, and they sure looked sharp in the first set against the Pioneers. Menlo opened with an 11-2 lead against the Pioneers, thanks in large part to Bailey Gamez. The senior provided a kill and two service aces over that impressive opening run, while Emily Sunada also contributed with two kills of her own. That was more than enough of a cushion for Menlo, as they never saw their lead get smaller than eight points over the entire set. Another Gamez ace in the final points helped set up a four-point run to close out the opening set 25-13.
The Pioneers cleaned up a lot of their mistakes in the second set, and actually held the slight advantage for nearly the entire second set. In yet another set that never saw a team lead by a larger margin than three points, Gamez was playing a large role again, getting three kills by the midway point of the set. It was not enough to stop the Pioneers from nearly squeaking out a win, as they were one point away with a 24-21 lead. Kenzie Carpenter denied the Pioneers a victory with a kill, and then Maggie McDonald did the same. Following an attack error on the Pioneers that tied it up, Sunada recorded a kill with some help from Jaden Scott on the set to put the Oaks up by one, and another attack error iced it, with the Oaks winning 26-24.
Four points was the largest lead in the third and eventually the final set, so you could say it opened up a little bit compared to the second set. Regardless, both teams played some good volleyball again, but the Oaks had a little more command this time around. After falling behind 6-3, Sunada continued her strong match by blasting back-to-back kills to give the Oaks some much needed momentum. After flip-flopping points, a kills from Scott and Carpenter helped give the Oaks some breathing room in the form of a 14-11 lead. Sierra Buscher went back-to-back on the kill front to maintain the three-point lead at 20-17, and the Oaks eventually pushed it to 23-19. The Pioneers went on a little run to make it 23-22 and threaten bonus volleyball, but a Buscher kill and an attack error on a Lucyanna Herrera serve ended it at 25-22 and gave the Oaks the clean sweep.
After four games in two days, the Oaks can surely use a break and that is exactly what they shall receive. Menlo does not see its next game action until a Wednesday, August 23rd match at UC Merced, slated to begin at 7:00 PM. The Oaks will follow that up with their home opener exactly one week later, also against the Bobcats.