ATHERTON, Calif. – Menlo College Women's Volleyball almost met its match on Friday night in the form of San Diego Christian. The Hawks were one of the grittiest teams the Oaks had played yet this season, and the result was some stellar volleyball on both sides. After the first sets could have gone to either team, it was the Oaks pulling ahead in the fourth and final set to ultimately take a four-set win from the Hawks. Menlo is now 13-16 on the season and 3-3 in GSAC play, moving into the fourth spot in the conference standings. San Diego Christian is now 6-10 and 0-6 in GSAC matches.
Not many people in the building expected the Oaks to come out flat, but that appeared to be the case early with San Diego Christian taking a surprising 6-3 lead after nine points. They were able to maintain this lead throughout the early stages, but then Jade Rockwood went back to serve and she got the Oaks back in the game. Menlo went on a 5-0 run to tie it up at nine, and it was punctuated with a kill from Sierra Buscher. The two teams traded blows until Emily Sunada went back to serve and gave the Oaks some breathing room with a pair of aces and a kill from Sofia Salim, putting the Oaks up 15-11. But the Hawks would not go down without a fight, forcing a tie at 20-20, and eventually taking a 23-22 lead. Just two points away from a win, Maggie McDonald got a kill to tie it, and Sunada ended with an ace, her third of the set, to give Menlo a 25-23 win.
If you thought set one was tight, get a load of set two. Menlo opened it up with a huge lead early on, expanding it to 11-4 and doing a lot of it with Hannah Hudson serving. Buscher and Sunada teamed up to get a few kills and help Menlo put themselves out in front. But then back came those pesky Hawks, known for their defensive ability to keep balls afloat. They did just that, and with Brooklyn Rubio back to serve, they erased a six point deficit with seven consecutive points to put themselves in front 15-14. It became almost a mirror image of the first set, with the Hawks then taking a 23-22 lead into the final points. A service error tied it back up, and again the Hawks had a chance to end it, up 24-23 and later 25-24. But Menlo continued to not give in, highlighted by kills from Bailey Gamez and another ace from Hudson to put it away and win 27-25.
Menlo again got up to an early advantage in the third set, with three consecutive kills from Buscher leading to a 6-2 Menlo lead. The Hawks got some points on the board and continued to buoy themselves between trailing by two and three points, but eventually drew it even at 12-12 off a kill from Anekka Guy. Menlo attempted to give themselves some breathing room by going up 19-17 on a kill from Kenzie Carpenter, but again found themselves trailing 23-22 at a decisive point in the set. A couple of mistakes by the Oaks put the Hawks in position and this time they were able to swoop away with the 25-23 win in the third set.
It looked like we were heading back for something very similar in the fourth set, with again the match being deadlocked in the early going. It was tied 10-10 after San Diego Christian led early by as many as three points. McDonald picked up a pair of kills to get Menlo back in that match with a tie, and that's when they began to blow the thing open. They pushed their lead to 16-12 with Salim serving and a pair of attack errors from the Hawks. San Diego Christian got it back to 17-16, but Menlo then finished it up with an 8-0 run to slam the door shut on the Hawks' comeback bid. Buscher put a bow on it with a kill from a Rockwood serve, fitting given she had 13 kills and 18 digs.
Menlo remains at home on Saturday to take on Arizona Christian in another GSAC match before they hit the road for the better part of October. First serve on Saturday is set for 2:00 PM inside Haynes-Prim Pavilion.