STOCKTON — Before leaving to open the West Coast Conference season at No. 1 BYU on Thursday, the Pacific Tigers volleyball team had business to take care of Saturday at home against Nevada.
In their first match of the season at Spanos Center, the Tigers returned from their 10-game road trip with a sweep of the Wolf Pack 30-28, 25-15, 25-14 in front of 459 fans. Pacific (5-6) overcame a 9-5 deficit in the first set by finally evening the score at 18-18 on a kill by Sonora alum Riley Patterson, then battling through nine more ties to win the set.
Nevada (7-4) was unable to recover as Pacific went on to produce a 57-24 kill-advantage, including a match-high 14 from Kaitlyn Lines. Teammates Allison Dennemann, Riley Ramsey and Patterson each added 10 kills apiece.
“Usually in situations like (the first set) we’ve been having trouble closing it off, but today we closed it off well so I’m proud of my team for that,” said Lines, a sophomore who started the match with four freshmen teammates. “We’ve had some really rough games that we’re learning a lot from. We’ve done a lot of great things, but we still have a lot to improve on.”
Nevada had a higher hitting percentage in the first set, .357 compared to .333 by the Tigers, but Pacific dominated in sets two and three to edge the Wolfpack at .347 to .137.
Pacific coach Greg Gibbons said the growing pains his squad went through over the 10-game road trip could translate into a successful WCC season.
“It’s all about the process of getting better,” Gibbons said. “We’ve won and lost sets by two points quite a bit already this season, so it’s about learning how to play in those critical points. I thought the girls did a terrific job and I’ll take that.
“I was really impressed with our middles today,” he added, praising lone senior Alex Holt and junior Lauren Cline. “They were a lot of the reason why our pins were able to get open like they were. They were swinging away early on the ball, and I couldn’t be more proud of what Alex and Lauren did out there.”
Holt hit for a whopping .538 percentage after leading the team with .294 against Cal, and had three blocks.
Nevada coach Lee Nelson said his squad, which included three players from the same state championship high school team in Hawaii, couldn’t recover from losing the first set.
“I just think Pacific battled harder than we did at the end of the first set,” said Nelson, whose team lost a heartbreaker at Saint Mary’s. “They looked crisper than we did and that was enough to close out the first one. That carried a lot of momentum into the second one, and we never really got our feet set after that.”
Patterson, one of the freshmen starters, said she’s looking forward to the challenge of playing at BYU’s Smith Fieldhouse, which regularly packs its 5,000-plus facility.
“Playing there is going to be crazy, so we’re going to have to be mentally tough and work as hard as we can,” Patterson said. “It’s not going to be easy. We’re going to have to work for every point and play like every point is a championship point. I’m definitely excited to play in a super competitive match.”
Gibbons echoed her remarks, saying it’ll be a good measuring stick against the team that has defeated four ranked teams – including No. 1 Stanford.
“If you want to get to that level, you have to play against teams that are at that level,” Gibbons said. “So, it’s very exciting. What a better way to learn than being put in these situations?”