The Gonzaga volleyball team (4-10, 4-10 WCC) dropped their weekend opener but won on senior day against Santa Clara University (3-5, 3-5 WCC) in its final pair of home matches this spring.

The Zags got off to a quick start on Friday, taking a 4-0 lead after consecutive kills from sophomore outside hitter Zoe Thiros. A few attacking errors by the Zags and aggressive serving from the Broncos tied the match at 10, but the Zags went on another run to earn a 15-11 lead.

The Broncos crawled back into the set, tying it a 16-16, but senior pin hitters Sarah Penner and Chapin Gray proved to be too much for the Bronco defense leading the Zags to a 25-19 win.

Set two was a more back-and-forth effort at the start.

A service error from the Zags started a 4-0 run for the Broncos, but back-to-back attacking errors from the Broncos and a service ace from senior defensive specialist Gretchen Rudel brought the Zags within one at 11-10. Santa Clara then went on another pair of runs with multiple hitters earning kills against a solid GU defense and the Zags dropped the set 17-25.

In set three, the Zags jumped out to a 6-3 lead behind aggressive serving from senior middle blocker Katelyn Oppio and a more balanced offense. The Zags dominated at the net both in terms of attacking and blocking, tallying six block assists in the third set alone. Although the Broncos came within four points late in the set, a pair of kills from Oppio propelled the Zags to a 25-19 victory.

Set four saw the Zags jump out to a 4-1 lead courtesy of aggressive serving from senior libero Julia Talarico and another kill from Oppio. The Broncos then went on a 5-0 run of their own, which was helped largely by three consecutive GU attack errors. The Zags kept it close with kills from Gray, Penner and freshman middle blocker Juliette Russell, but the Broncos ended up taking the set 25-21.

GU got off to a hot start again in set five with kills from Oppio, Gray, and Russell. The Zags maintained the lead until a Bronco kill tied the score at 11 apiece. Oppio earned another kill late for the Zags, but the Broncos went on to take the set 15-12 and the match 3-2.

The Zags had four players finish with double digit kills including Gray (15), Thiros (13), Oppio (13) and Penner (11). Penner and Thiros finished with double-doubles adding 13 and 17 digs, respectively. Sophomore setter Tia Andaya had 51 assists for the Zags.

Saturday was senior day for GU and the team honored its six seniors at the start of the match. 

The Zags got off to a hot start with a cross-court kill from senior opposite hitter Claire Barbé, which ignited the GU fan base and set the tone for the match. The Zags maintained a small lead throughout the set until three consecutive attack errors from the Zags allowed the Broncos to tie the set at 11. 

Penner and Gray led the Zags late in the set, and the GU block kept the Bronco hitters quiet throughout the rest of the set. An untouched service ace from Penner ended the set at 25-21 in favor of the Zags.

The Zags and Broncos traded a few points early in the second set until Talarico picked up the serve with the set tied at two. GU went on a 4-0 run with a kill from each of the hitters in the front row and an ace from Talarico. The Zags never relinquished the lead in set two although the Broncos came within one late in the set at 22-21. A kill from Thiros ended the set at 25-22.

In the third set, the Zags continued to dominate on the offensive front and their defense was rock solid. The GU block continued to fluster Bronco attackers, and if their hits made it around the block, the back row was picking up nearly every ball. GU forced the Broncos to be more creative in an effort to get the ball to the floor which resulted in nine Santa Clara attacking errors in set three alone.

Although the set started off close, an Oppio serving run featuring a stuff block from Andaya and sophomore middle blocker Alyssa Hughes and a long rally won by the Zags helped break open the set. Again, the Broncos were down but never completely out of the set, surviving three match points. A kill from Hughes ended the set at 25-21 and the match at 3-0.

As a team the Zags hit .330 on the day compared to the Broncos’ .177. GU also bested Santa Clara on defense with 48 digs versus the Broncos’ 34.

“I’m so proud of our response today,” said GU Head Coach Diane Nelson.

GU’s seniors fittingly led them to victory on Saturday. Penner posted her second double-double of the weekend with 10 kills and 12 digs. Rudel and Talarico added 11 and 15 digs, respectively. Gray added 10 kills while Oppio added five and Barbé hit at .500 clip.

“After losing a tough five-set battle yesterday, our girls stepped up with confidence in themselves and each other today. To get a win on Senior Day with our six seniors was really special.”

Up next for the Zags is a pair of matches at the University of San Francisco on March 19 and 20 at noon.

Dagny Albano is a staff writer. Follow her on Twitter: @dagny_albano. 

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