COSTA MESA, Calif. – The NAIA Volleyball Match of the Week between No. 12 Vanguard and No. 11 The Master's College lived up to its billing on Saturday evening in The Pit. The Golden State Athletic Conference rivalry went down to the wire, with the Lions claiming the significant five-set upset (25-21, 22-25, 16-25, 25-21, 15-5).
Vanguard sits at 18-6 overall and 6-4 in GSAC following the win, while The Master's drops to 17-6 on the year and 6-4 in conference play.
A series of momentum swings characterized the Lions' and the Mustangs' opening frame, as Vanguard took an 8-2 lead before giving up five unanswered points during The Master's College's 12-3 run. Down 14-11, the Vanguard Blue and Gold responded with a kill from sophomore Stephanie Flores (Yucaipa, Calif.) and a pair of back-to-back service aces from freshman Rebecca Shouse (Los Alamitos, Calif.) to tie the contest at 14-all.
The Mustangs got two points before Vanguard rattled off eight-straight to claim a 22-16 advantage. The Master's College brought it within two at 22-20, but the Lions sealed the deal, 25-21, with kills from sophomore Charlotte Heerlyn (Santee, Calif.) and Flores.
Heerlyn notched a team-leading five putdowns for The Pride in the frame, while junior Kelly Heenan (Costa Mesa, Calif.) paced the Vanguard defensive effort with five digs.
The second set was close throughout, though the Mustangs stretched out a pair of five-point leads at 15-10 and 16-11. A monster block from junior Jessica Neves (Mission Viejo, Calif.) and Flores closed the gap at 16-14 and Vanguard evened the score at 17-17 following a smash from freshman Jessica Chase (Riverside, Calif.) and a The Master's College mishap.
The force shifted in the Mustangs' direction late, but a timeout from Lions' head coach Eryn Leja worked magic, resulting in a The Master's College error and an ensuing service ace from Heenan, bringing the match back to even at 22-22.
The next three points belonged to The Master's, however, as the Mustangs got a kill from Morgan Fay and Vanguard made a pair of errors to end the set.
The Lions hit just .088 (10-34) in the frame.
Vanguard came out slow in the third, trailing by eight at 15-7 before a Heerlyn kill and a service ace by freshman Myranda Cunningham (Irvine, Calif.) brought the match within six. Vanguard would get no closer, however, as it could not seem to find a rhythm, while The Master's found its flow en route 25-16 win.
In the fourth, the Lions began strong and had the Mustangs back-peddling, but hit into the block on consecutive points to give The Master's College an edge at 10-9. The Master's College continued to capitalize on Vanguard mistakes, while limiting its own to go out front by four (13-9) at the midway point.
The Pride, however, was not ready to submit and picked up the tempo to pull within one at 18-17 on a Flores' kill. Sophomore Sarah McKinny (Santa Barbara, Calif.) and Neves rejected a hard-hit attempt on the next play to deadlock the affair, and another stuff at the net gave the Lions a late lead (19-18).
Two points later, McKinny demolished a ball at the expense of a The Master's College defensive player and Vanguard put together an impressive set-ending run to take the fourth, 25-21.
Vanguard grabbed the fifth's initial point and had The Master's College scrambling after it rattled off three more to record a 4-1 start. A Flores' kill courtesy of Lions' setter sophomore Carla Cantarella (Huntington Beach, Calif.) made it 7-3 and a Mustangs' ball-handling error added another to the Vanguard tally.
The Master's College trimmed it to four on the subsequent possession, but would get no closer as Vanguard was completely dominant and unstoppable down the stretch.
McKinny and sophomore Rachael Barker (Torrance, Calif.) paced the victors with 12 and 10 kills, respectively. Vanguard also got nine apiece from Heerlyn and Flores. Neves chipped in seven, including the game winner, and added a solo block and two block assists.
The Lions compiled 10 total team blocks in the win. Barker registered two solos, while McKinny garnered one solo of her own and five block assists. Heerlyn added two more block assists to the Lions' equation and Flores picked up a solo stuff.
Cunningham and Cantarella, the Blue and Gold's setters, dished out 17 and 23 assists, while recording eight digs apiece in the contest. Juniorshli Bellinger (Chandler, Ariz.) also notched eight digs for The Pride.
The Vanguard defense amassed 71 digs on the night. Heenan led the way with 19 and aced the Mustangs three times. Freshman Morgan Haner (Long Beach, Calif.) also hit double-digits with 10 digs of her own, and Barker completely her well-rounded night with six.
The Mustangs' Sam Doughtery put forth a commendable effort with 24 kills, 20 digs, four assists and four service aces in the loss.