For the first time at home this season, a volleyball match went longer than three sets, as Gonzaga took down West Coast Conference foe Pepperdine.
It was also the first time in program history the Zags were able to sweep the Waves in regular season play.
After a strong first set, in which the Zags hit .435 and had five blocks, the second and third sets were a different story.
The Waves won narrowly 25-23 and 25-20 in the second and third sets respectively, but head coach Diane Nelson was less than thrilled with her team’s performance in the middle two sets. While she didn’t want to discredit their opponents, she said she thought her team could and should have played better.
“We have talked about how our level of play needs to be like we are going out to take care of business, and sometimes we are just hoping [we play well],” she said.
Her message was received before the fourth set where the Zags jumped out to a 14-1 lead before the Waves settled in to tighten the score. While the final score in the fourth was only 25-18, the Zags dominated at all levels.
Nelson said the message going into the fourth was to settle in, improve blocks and feed Emmy Allen.
And feed Emmy they did.
Outside hitter Emmy Allen had 30 kills Saturday, a career-high (besting her previous of 29 set earlier this season against Utah).
“Early in the match she was getting blocked and wasn’t really effective and I said try this and then I told the setters, and I haven’t said this all season: ‘feed her,”’ Nelson said.
Allen was quick to give the credit to the rest of the team.
“The only reason I had that many kills is because we passed well and the sets were incredible,” she said.
The fourth set cemented the Zags momentum heading into the fifth and final set.
After an initial sideout in overtime, Morgan Douglass served the next five points to give the Zags a 6-0 lead in overtime.
The rest of the set went back and forth. GU won by a score of 15-12.
Five set magic
Last season’s weakness has become this season’s strength, as the Bulldogs are now 5-1 in five set matches. Last season, they were winless in eight tries (once against Pepperdine in Malibu) in five set matches.
“Endurance, cardiovascular exercise and I know our girls are in good shape, so I would hope we are prepared to win fifth sets,” Coach Nelson said.
The Zags are back on the road to face the two WCC powerhouses in BYU and San Diego on Thursday and Saturday.