Waves Fend Off Bulldogs, Win Five-Set Thriller
Katie Messing pounds down 20 kills, while Becca Strehlow quarterbacks the offense with 56 assists.
Oct. 24, 2013
MALIBU, Calif. - Led by Katie Messing's 20 kills, the Pepperdine women's volleyball team overcame a 0-2 deficit against Gonzaga to come back and win 3-2. The Waves remain perfect against the Bulldogs when playing inside Firestone Fieldhouse, improving to 27-0 all-time.
Although Gonzaga (8-11, 4-6 WCC) won the first two sets 25-19, 26-24, Pepperdine stormed back to win sets three and four 25-22, 25-17. The Bulldogs led for much of set five, including a late 13-11 advantage, but the Waves weathered the storm and rattled off four unanswered points to claim the 15-13 victory.
Pepperdine was playing without several members of the starting rotation, including middle blockers Samantha Cash (San Diego, Calif./Canyon Crest Academy) and Brooke Honeycutt (Phoenix, Ariz./Desert Vista HS), as well as libero Ryann Chandler (Del Mar, Calif./Torey Pines HS).
Emma Fuzie (Carmel, Calif./Carmel HS), who has been in for Honeycutt since the end of September, was rock solid. The freshman was credited with a career-high 12 kills while hitting .429 (12 kills-3errors-21 attempts), as well as six blocks.
Freshman Reegan Dennis (Newport Beach, Calif./Orange Lutheran HS) made her first start of the season in Cash's absence.
"I'm so proud of both Emma and Reegan," said Pepperdine Athletics Hall of Fame coach Nina Matthies. "To be freshmen at their position and to be thrown into the starting rotation this late in the season is tough. But they both handled the pressure extraordinarily well."
Although Messing (The Woodlands, Texas/The Woodlands HS) was hindered by attack errors in the opening two sets, she was able to turn it up a notch and finish the match strong. After hitting just .000 (6-6-23) in the first two frames, the junior swung at a .275 (14-3-40) clip the remainder of the contest. Overall she led the Waves (10-8, 4-6 WCC) with 20 kills.
"I thought Katie was fantastic tonight," continued Matthies. "She carried a huge load for us, and once she was able to gather herself and let go of the bad stuff she was able to play the way she wanted to."
In addition to Messing and Fuzie, Taylor Racich (Santa Barbara, Calif./Dos Pueblos HS) and Kelley Larsen (Jamul, Calif./Christian HS) both reached double figures in kills. Larsen picked up the double-double with 12 kills and 17 digs, while Racich collected 15 kills while hitting at a blistering .481 (15-2-27) clip.
Becca Strehlow (Long Beach, Calif./Woodrow Wilson HS) dished 56 assists en route to Pepperdine's .282 (71-23-170) team hitting percentage. She missed out on the triple double by just one kill, ending the night with 12 digs and nine kills.
Jillian Bergeson (Friendswood, Texas/Friendswood HS) paced the defense with a match-leading 23 digs from her libero position.
"Tonight I felt we finally dug in and fought back," Matthies said. "With all the injuries and lineup changes, there really hasn't been a lot of room to move. The pressure is really on the kids. Tonight, as a team, they stepped up and said `we will win' after falling behind. They fought back, and they did."
Pepperdine started the match on a 5-0 run, but the Bulldogs overtook the lead at 10-9 and never trailed the duration of the set. The momentum carried over into set two, and despite a late push and even one Pepperdine set point, Gonzaga walked away with the win 26-24.
The Waves started to get back on track in set three, swinging at .343 (15-3-35) hitting percentage to claim the stanza 25-22. The win gave Pepperdine the push it needed to really take control in set four. The home team led off the fourth with a 7-1 run and never trailed, claiming the set 25-17.
Although Gonzaga controlled the early tempo of the deciding set five, the Waves scored four-consecutive points to knot the score at 10-all. The Zags quickly took over the top spot, however, and three of the next four points went in their favor to put the score at 13-11.
Racich found the hardwood twice more to help spark the comeback, and kills by Messing and Strehlow in succession erased the Bulldogs' upset hopes, as the Waves won 15-13.
Pepperdine's home win streak vs. Gonzaga dates back to 1987.
Kellie Woolever (Long Beach, Calif./Woodrow Wilson HS) came off the bench to play defense and finished the night with 12 digs and four aces.
The Waves continue the week with a 1 p.m. match vs. Portland on Saturday, Oct. 24. Fans unable to make it to Malibu can watch the contest for free on WaveCasts.