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Seniors help Boxers topple 18th-ranked Puget Sound


Pacific volleyball gets a five-set upset win against the Loggers

Prior to Saturday night’s match, the Pacific volleyball team’s seniors were recognized with flowers and gifts. Then, their teammates helped provide the best present of all: a five-set upset of 18th-ranked Puget Sound in Northwest Conference action at the Stoller Center.

After winning the first set 25-22, the Boxers found themselves on the ropes, getting left behind in the second and third sets by scores of 14-25 and 19-25. Pacific then held off a late Puget Sound rally to score a 27-25 fourth set victory before dominating the deciding frame 15-8 to close the 2013 season on a high note.

With the victory, Pacific snapped a three-match losing streak and finished at 8-15 overall and 7-9 in NWC play, good for a tie for fifth place with George Fox. The loss may well have been the one that knocked the Loggers — who were ranked No. 18 in last week’s AVCA Division III Poll — out of the playoffs.

After having put together a 10-match win streak, Puget Sound dropped its third consecutive contest with the defeat and was not among the 64-team playoff field announced by the NCAA on Monday. The visitors ended their season at 17-8 overall and 12-4 in the conference.

Pacific Lutheran won the league crown with a 15-1 mark.

Hannah Herbert, a sophomore out of Liberty High School in Hillsboro, had a career night, leading the Boxers with 21 kills. Una Areta notched a double-double with 15 kills and 10 digs, while Mariah McHolland closed out her Pacific career with 11 kills and four blocks.

Emily Farnham added 42 assists, and Becky Sheller finished with 27 digs. In the process, Sheller set a new Pacific single-season record with an average of 5.33 digs per set, breaking the previous record of 5.17 notched by Jade Thompson in 2011.

Nicolette Reynaud led Puget Sound with nine kills while Kristen Lane, Danielle Westerman and Emily Convery each had seven. Jenni Brehove added 32 assists while Christina Chun notched 26 digs.

Pacific started strong in the first set, taking a 9-5 lead on a Jamie Steach ace and a Puget Sound attack error. The Boxers extended the lead to 17-11 on another Puget Sound error, but the Loggers rallied to come within 23-21 on Reynaud’s service ace. The two teams traded service errors before Areta closed out the 25-22 victory with a kill for the Boxers.

It was as if two different teams came out for the second set, with the Loggers vaulting out to a 13-5 lead on a Convery kill, a Chun ace and a Pacific attack error. Puget Sound allowed the Boxers just two points off of their own serve as they extended the advantage to 22-11 on a Pacific attack error before rolling on to the 25-14 win.

The visitors charged hard again to open the third set, going up 6-3 on a pair of Heather Sangster kills. Pacific kept things closer this time, though, rallying back to a 7-7 tie on Hannah Smargiassi’s kill.

But Puget Sound did what it needed to keep the Boxers from taking a lead, making it a 22-16 advantage on a Herbert attack error. A total of 11 attack errors plagued the Boxers in the set, including one on the final point that gave the Loggers a 25-19 win.

Pacific opened the fourth set strongly, scoring the first four points and then taking a 6-2 lead on Kristin Best’s kill, but the Loggers rallied to take short-lived leads at 7-6 and 9-8. The set was a nip-and-tuck affair much of the rest of the way, as neither team held an advantage of more than two points until Pacific edged ahead 22-19 on an Areta kill.

But the Loggers rattled off four consecutive points, capped by a Jordan Bird kill that gave Puget Sound a 23-22 lead and put Pacific just two points away from defeat. Steach and Areta followed with kills that put the Boxers ahead by one.

Puget Sound had match point on its serve at 25-24, but Farnham came up huge for the Boxers with a kill to force another tie. The home side followed up with a kill by Herbert, and then a Loggers attack error forced a decisive fifth set.

With momentum on the side of the Boxers, they jumped out to an 8-3 lead that McHolland capped with a service ace. Puget Sound came no closer than four points the rest of the way, and Pacific closed out the set and the match with three consecutive points on a Puget Sound attack error, Herbert’s final kill and another error by the Loggers.

The comeback win sent Pacific’s two seniors out victorious in their final college match. In addition to McHolland, Kami Kugler played her last match in a Boxers uniform. She finished with nine digs and two assists.