The University of Redlands volleyball team took on a pair of Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) foes in back-to-back competitions this weekend, facing off against Pomona-Pitzer Colleges on Friday and Occidental College on Saturday. Despite flashes of brilliance, the Bulldogs struggled through up-and-down performances in both outings, which led to four-set defeats during a difficult slate of opponents.
After dropping the first two sets against Pomona-Pitzer by scores of 19-25 and 13-25, the Maroon and Gray came out firing in the third to cut the deficit in half with a 25-19 effort. However, the Sagehens countered the momentum to push past the Bulldogs in the fourth frame, 25-23.
During the third set, Redlands trailed by three points on multiple occasions, but at 11-14, the team responded with a 6-0 run. During this stretch, the Bulldogs looked to sophomore middle blocker Marisa Gile (Yucaipa, CA) and senior outside hitter Morgan Buckner (San Rafael, CA) to bookend the run with solid blocking. Between putting up the walls of defense, the duo joined offensive forces with sophomore right-side hitter Cierra Stevens (Palm Springs, CA) for important kills.
The teams continued to trade punches, but the Maroon and Gray maintained its lead before freshman middle blocker Allison Jensen (Redlands, CA) put the exclamation point on the triumph with her set-securing kill.
During the fourth frame, the Bulldogs faced a must-win scenario and battled to the bitter end. With Redlands leading 23-22, the Sagehens stepped up with a critical kill to even the count. Unfortunately, consecutive hitting errors for the Maroon and Gray resulted in the two-point defeat.
Sophomore outside hitter Ashton Martin (Redlands, CA) paced the Bulldog offense with 12 kills, while Buckner and Gile each added 11. Junior libero Courtney Johnson (Dana Point,CA) supplied a team-leading 23 digs from the back row.
Against Occidental, another rough start put the Bulldogs in a hole that proved to be too much, as they lost the match by scores of 6-25, 22-25, 25-23, 21-25.
Despite the difficult first-set defeat, the Maroon and Gray showed great resiliency to unleash a .306 hitting percentage in the second stanza en route to a solid win. The Bulldogs broke a seven-all tie with back-to-back blocking plays by senior Alisha Cornick (Hollister, CA) and Gile, and Cornick and Jensen. In addition, Jensen stamped the momentum shift with an important kill, which led to an Oxy timeout. Regardless, Redlands refused to back down and looked to Jensen to once again find hardwood for the 11-7 lead.
From here, the Maroon and Gray took care of business and kept the lead through the final whistle. However, the Tigers managed to cut the deficit to one at 21-22, but a quick kill by Buckner provided another two-point advantage for Redlands. She uncorked a fitting finish to the set with another put-away for the 25-23 victory.
However, Occidental held off the Bulldogs' comeback efforts in the subsequent frames. Although Redlands recorded fewer hitting errors in these sets, the Tigers fired off more kills to make up the difference.
Martin and Buckner continued to lead the Redlands offense with 14 kills apiece. They both provided solid hitting percentages at .293 and .273, respectively. Buckner also stepped up defensively with a Bulldog-best 24 digs on the night. Cornick dished out 30 assists in three sets of action.
Redlands (5-10, 2-6 SCIAC) strives to rebound when it heads to No. 21 Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Colleges for a SCIAC match on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m.