ATHERTON, Calif. – The first day of the Menlo Tournament began with nine teams making their way to Atherton and trying their best to beat the heat. With temperatures pushing triple digits, every team was undoubtedly exhausted from the heat, but competitive volleyball was the theme all day, especially for Menlo College. The Oaks squared off against the University of Providence and Providence Christian on the opening day. Menlo lost in straight sets to the Argonauts but came back strong against the Sea Beggars and won in four sets, splitting the first day with their record sitting at 6-2.
Menlo vs. University of Providence (19-25, 19-25, 17-25)
When the Oaks hit the floor for the first time in the Menlo Tournament, temperatures were already beyond blistering. The heat wave advisory was clearly in effect across the Bay Area, but it didn't slow either team. Both were fresh in their first match of the day, but the Argonauts had the momentum working across all three sets against the Oaks. It looked as if Menlo might get a good showing in the first set, holding tight against the Argos deep into the match. Menlo took an early 10-6 lead midway through the first set after a kill from Kenzie Carpenter, but that's when the match began to sway back towards the visitors. A couple of attack errors from the Oaks really set things up for Providence, able to force a 17-17 tie. The kills came out in full force for the Argos after that, with Sydney Andersen nailing down a couple as the Argos scored 8 of the final 10 points to win the set 25-19.
Another match that went back and forth got started in the second set, though this time the Argos got the first two points and led early on. With the match tied at five, Sierra Buscher tallied a pair of kills to put the Oaks up for the first time. The Argos then turned the tides, taking seven of the next eight points to lead 12-8, thanks to three aces and two kills from Mariah Diaz. The Oaks just would not go away, however, with Carpenter, Sofia Salim, and Buscher leading a run that forced the match to tie again at 17-17, and then two more kills from Buscher made it 19-17 Menlo. Again, a late rally was the difference, as the Argos scored the final eight points of the match due to some sloppy play for the Oaks, and one final kill from Diaz.
The third set was a bit more decisive than the first two, and it appeared that way from the beginning. 10 of the first 14 points went to the Argos, with two more aces off the arm of Maddie Link being the spark. Maggie McDonald and Emily Sunada did their best to keep the Blue and White afloat with some kills in the middle of the match, but Providence was much too far ahead for the Oaks to keep within striking distance. A Sunada kill made it 21-16, but Menlo would get no closer, falling in straight sets with the finale being 25-17.
Menlo vs. Providence Christian (27-25, 21-25, 25-22, 25-20)
On the final match of the night, the Sea Beggars and Oaks took center stage inside steamy Haynes-Prim Pavilion to wrap up the first day of the Menlo Tournament. The opening set was quite a treat, with bonus volleyball on tap after both teams recorded 25 points. It was, not surprisingly, a flip-flop affair. Providence Christian held the early advantage for a majority of the match, despite some strong efforts from Kenzie Carpenter and Sofia Salim, using some kills to make it 12-10 Providence Christian. The match evened up after a service as from Hannah Hudson, and Menlo took their first lead after Salim recorded another kill. Moea Kekauoha got going in the kills department with a wicked one late to make it 18-16, but the match was close the rest of the way. With Providence Christian up 24-23 and needing one point to end the first set, Emily Sunada came up with a kill at the net to tie it. Sierra Buscher recorded a kill a few points later to make it 26-25, and after an attack error from the Sea Beggars, Menlo won the first set 27-25.
The second set was a tale of two halves, with the Oaks leading before the Sea Beggars were able to settle down and take control. Several Oaks played a role in taking the early lead, with Carpenter, Buscher, and Maggie McDonald doing a lot of the early kill work to take an 8-3 lead. Six of the next seven points, however, went to the Sea Beggars and they were able to get right back in the match. They took care of the rest, tying the match at 9-9 and controlling the pace the rest of the way. A Menlo run late made things interesting, with a Carpenter kill, Kekauoha ace, and McDonald kill making it 17-16 Providence Christian, but Menlo never tied it up. Plenty of late kills from the Sea Beggars pushed them ahead to a 25-21 win.
Menlo got some swagger back in the third set, once again taking an 8-3 lead, this time off the strength of some misplays from Providence Christian. The Sea Beggars made things quite interesting in the middle of the match, making it 12-10 off a mini-run, but Kekauoha silenced that with a kill and then went back and served off five more points for Menlo. Sunada and Bailey Gamez combined for a block, Sunada had a kill, Gamez had a kill…you name it, it happened for Menlo. The rest of the match played more even, but Menlo still had enough to take the 25-22 win with McDonald kill as the final point.
For the third consecutive set, the Oaks jumped out to the early lead, this time holding a 7-3 advantage. Some shoddy play early from Providence Christian led to Menlo jumping out this time, but they had plenty to be happy with on their end. Jade Rockwood went back to serve a few times and got an ace to help push the Menlo lead to five, and eventually it got up to 10-4. Something changed though shortly after, as Providence Christian actually took the lead 14-13, scoring 10 of the next 13 points with a seven-point run sprinkled in. The good news for Menlo was that they had one more run left in them, with a Hudson ace, McDonald kill, and a few more misplays from the Sea Beggars. Menlo took the final set with an ace from Buscher and another attack error on the other side for the 25-20 win.
Menlo does not have much time to rest, and fortunately the temperatures won't be as bad on Saturday. Menlo takes the court first at 11:00 AM against Montana State-Northern, and then center stage again at 5:00 PM against Rocky Mountain College. Tournament play begins at 9:00 AM with dual court action featuring a pair of GSAC teams: Westmont and San Diego Christian.