Gonzaga volleyball suffered another conference loss in the Martin Centre Saturday afternoon, falling to University of the Pacific despite winning the first set for the second match in a row. The Bulldogs fell to the Tigers 3-1, but Pacific’s win was hard-fought — each set was decided by 5 points or less, with 24 ties and 6 lead changes overall.

West Coast Conference implications were high before the match even began. The Zags (6-12, 0-6) came in to the weekend matchup looking for answers following a loss to Saint Mary’s at home Thursday that left them as one of only two teams still winless in WCC play. Pacific (11-7, 3-3) was searching for momentum coming off of three straight losses. Both teams needed a win to regain a positive direction in conference play.

The first two sets were close affairs, both going over 25 points. The Zags won the first set 27-25, leading almost the entire time primarily thanks to a combined 9 kills from sophomore Kennedy Croft and junior Sarah Penner. Despite 6 kills from junior Chapin Gray, the Tigers won the second 29-27 after the Zags hit a game-low 15.4% and failed to overcome an early deficit.

In the third, the Zags’ offense languished and fell behind early — Pacific controlled the momentum for practically the entire set. Pacific’s Riley Patterson continued to have her way with the GU defense en route to 23.5 points.

The fourth set was more of the same. Defensive miscues by GU gave Pacific an early 5-1 lead in the fourth set, and despite a handful of runs by the Zags, the lead largely remained intact yet again. Pacific ended the match with a kill to seal the score, 25-20.

Despite losing the match, GU’s improved blocking kept them competitive throughout each set, allowing them to slow down Pacific’s offense.

We've been totally focused on that piece,” said GU head coach Diane Nelson. “The little things are making a difference… we need anything we can do to slow down their team's offense.”

Three Bulldogs reached double-digit kills, as Gray scored 14 with 20 digs and Penner and Croft netted 10 each. After only 1 kill in the first, Gray heated up in the following three sets, leading the Bulldogs in scoring in each.

“I think we did a good job of getting in a zone, in a rhythm, but just a little too late and we couldn’t come back from those holes we dug ourselves,” Penner said. “We just lose our confidence sometimes. We just need to remember to control our side and not worry about the other team.”

The Bulldogs will go on the road to play Santa Clara next on Oct. 17 at 7 p.m.

Connor Gilbert is a sports editor. Follow him on Twitter: @connorjgilbert.

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