GU v. Oklahoma

Oklahoma ends Gonzaga's winning streak at their home invitational.

Looking to sweep all three games and win its home tournament, Gonzaga University came up short — losing all three sets to the University of Oklahoma in the finale of the Gonzaga Invitational Volleyball Tournament at the Charlotte Y. Martin Centre in Spokane, Washington. 

OU got off to a fast start — taking 6-0 in the first set before GU called a timeout. The Zags rebounded following their timeout as junior outside hitter McKenna Marshall scored GU's first point with a kill. 

However, OU would remain in control — leading 16-7 which led GU to use its second timeout. The Sooners seemed destined to easily take the first set as they led 20-8 at one point, but GU went on a scoring run led by Marshall, who had five kills in the first set.

The Zags would score 10 of the last 13 points in the set, but GU’s early deficit proved too much to overcome as OU took the first set 25-20.  

The second set started more evenly as the two schools split the first 12 points. OU would take a 10-6 lead with four straight points, but GU graduate student and middle blocker Cara Mckenzie answered with a kill. 

The Zags would keep things close with Mckenzie, Marshall, and junior outside hitter Kennedy Croft totaling 15 kills in the set. A kill from Marshall would tie the score at 25-25, but back-to-back attack errors from her would give OU the second set, 27-25. 

The score was close for much of the third set. With OU ahead 22-19, it seemed possible the Zags would force another set. However, three kills from OU freshman middle blocker and outside hitter Megan Wilson would finish the third set and give GU its first and only loss of the tournament. 

Wilson was one of the main contributors to OU’s victory as she finished with a game-high 18 kills, including eight in the third set. While Wilson seemed impossible for the Zags to stop, she wasn’t the only OU freshman with a notable performance. Freshman setter Peyton Dunn led OU with 39 assists — serving as the team’s primary distributor. 

Reflecting on the game, GU Head Volleyball Coach Diane Nelson sees room for improvement on the defensive end but was happy with the way her team battled. 

“We’ve just got to stay in the system as much as possible and then we’ve got to be smart about what we’re doing up at the net,” Coach Nelson said. “I think we have a lot to learn on the defensive end and [with] our blocking, but all in all, our girls put up a pretty big fight and that’s something we talk about a ton and they stayed connected through all of it so I’m proud of that.”

Another thing that’s important to keep in mind is how new the Zags are in playing with each other. GU has seven newcomers this year, including five transfers. 

Graduate assistant setter Brynn Chandler, who transferred from the University of Georgia, mentioned how the system is new for many of the players. 

“On the whole, we did some really good things, and then obviously our execution wasn’t necessarily there,” Chandler said. “I think we need to prepare a little bit better and then just play as a unit, we are new together, none of us have played together so we just have to get things smoothed out and we’ll be in good shape.”

Following the tournament, the Zags have a 3-3 record and will go on the road to play in the Cougar Challenge hosted by Washington State University next weekend. The Zags are scheduled to play CSU Long Beach on Friday, Sept. 10 at 10:30 a.m., WSU the same day at 8 p.m., and the University of Northern Iowa on Saturday, Sept. 11 at 11:30 a.m. 

Students can make the drive to Pullman, Washington to see the games or they can follow along by using the Gonzaga University Athletics website. 

Henry Kruger is a staff writer. Follow him on Twitter:@henrykrvger.

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