Santa Barbara, Calif. -- Scoring the final three points of the match, The Master's College women's volleyball team rallied in dramatic fashion Tuesday evening to edge 10th-ranked Westmont in five sets, capping off a much-anticipated match-up that featured two of the nation's finest teams.
Winning their second straight five-set outing (22-25, 29-27, 25-20, 21-25, 17-15) and their fifth overall, the No. 16 Mustangs took over sole possession of third place in the GSAC, improving to 3-1 in conference play and 13-3 overall.
Down 15-14 in the final set, the Mustangs got kills from Allison Child (Shingle Springs, CA), Stacey Jones (Scottsdale, AZ), and Aubrey Pyburn (Burbank, CA) to snatch a huge road win away from the Warriors. The fifth set was a classic, featuring 10 ties, seven lead changes, and a 9-6 deficit from which the Mustangs rallied.
Playing before an enthusiastic home crowd, the Warriors lived up to their lofty ranking early on, taking leads of 7-2 and 14-7 in the opening set. However, the Mustangs withstood the early onslaught, reeling off a 10-2 run and taking a 17-16 lead on a Child kill. The Warriors responded with three straight points to take the lead back but a pair of attack errors allowed the Mustangs to catch them at 21-all. Bouncing back from those miscues and taking advantage of two Mustang attack errors, the Warriors scored four of the set's final five points to close out a 25-22 victory.
And, that was just the start of an entertaining, nail-biting evening of volleyball. The second set was characterized by thrilling, see-saw play that was highlighted by an eye-popping 17 ties and 15 lead changes with neither side leading by more than three points at any time. In fact, from a 12-12 deadlock, no more than two points separated the clubs and when Pyburn and Child combined to block a Warrior kill attempt, the Mustangs had evened the match at a set apiece with a 29-27 decision.
Set three featured runs by both squads with the Mustangs using skeins early and late to record a 25-20 win. Sparked by All-American and current GSAC Player of the Week Sam Dougherty's (Madera, CA) three kills, the Mustangs tallied the set's first three points and then raced to an 8-2 lead. The Mustangs held on to the lead until a 5-0 Warrior skein gave the hosts a 17-16 advantage. However, that proved to be short-lived as kills from Ashley Newton (Henderson, NV) and Dougherty, sandwiched around two Westmont errors, ignited a 4-0 burst that put the Mustangs ahead to stay 20-17. After the Warriors sliced the deficit to one point (21-20), the Mustangs retaliated with another 4-0 streak, this one in set-ending fashion as Child, Jones, and Dougherty produced kills for the five-point win.
However, in the ebb and flow of a topsy-turvy match, the Warriors just as quickly took back the momentum in the fourth set, evening the match at 2-2 with a wire-to-wire, 25-21 victory. They did so by scoring nine of the set's first 12 points and then withstanding mid- and late-set charges by the Mustangs. Down by six points (9-3) early, the Mustangs used a 5-0 run to get within one on a Child kill. Later on, they rallied from a 17-11 deficit to get within three points on a trio of occasions (21-18, 23-20, and 24-21) but a Ciara Turner kill sealed the victory for the Warriors.
All that did was set up a thrilling and deciding fifth set, one in which the Warriors bolted to an early lead, making the Mustangs play catch up. And, catch up they did. Sparked by three kills from Dougherty, the Mustangs caught the Warriors at 10-all and then another Dougherty kill put them ahead 13-12. Westmont fought back to take a 15-14 lead before Child, Jones, and Pyburn came through in the final moments to produce a huge road win.
Referring to winning in Santa Barbara, Coach Bobby Blanken said, "It's tough to win on the road against any team in our conference, but in particular against the No. 10 team in the nation. Our girls hung in there despite some scrappy play on both sides. We're happy to walk away with a win."
As usual, Dougherty led the way, leading all scorers with 25 kills and 56 total attacks. Rebecca Peluffo (La Crescenta, CA) posted a match-high 29 digs while Aubrey Bekendam (Orland, CA) added 26 more to go along with a match-best 28 set assists.
The Lady Mustangs now return to Bross Court for Saturday' GSAC match against Arizona Christian (1-11 overall, 0-3 GSAC). First serve is scheduled for 7:00 p.m.