Fullerton, CA- In what turned out to be a marathon match on Friday night, Hope International pulled off the comeback and then held on to beat Arizona Christian. The Royals beat the Firestorm 3-2 (19-25, 15-25, 25-14, 25-21, 16-14). Senior Markisha Richie finished the night with a match high 23 kills for the Royals. Bethany Beckman put away 19 kills for the Firestorm.
The Royals (3-11, 1-5 GSAC) shot themselves in the foot in the first two sets and the Firestorm (7-13, 0-6 GSAC) gladly stepped in to take advantage. HIU scored the first point of the night on a kill from Richie. An error by both teams move Hope International back in front 2-1. But ACU answered with a 4-0 run to grab the lead for good in the set. Once the Firestorm moved out to an 8-3 lead, the Royals would not get closer than two points the rest of the way.
Beckman paced the ACU attack with five kills on seven attacks without an error (.714). Richie ended up with 4 kills but as a team HIU had 10 hitting errors.
To start the second set, Summer Mitchell delivered two kills in the first three points. The Royals would maintain the lead until the Firestorm tie the set at 8-8 and then again at 9-9 before moving ahead on a kill from Karleigh McClure. In fact from 9-9, ACU went on 10-1 tear to build a 19-10 lead and take command of the set.
MacKenzie Worden had the hot hand with five kills in the set. For the second set in a row, Arizona Christian hit .179 as team.
In the third set, ACU looked like they had the momentum to close out the match as they built an 8-4 edge. But the tide turned over the course of the next five points. Kaylee Hagey delivered a kill before the Royals forced three straight hitting errors (including two blocks with Chelsea Ybanez involved in both). Mitchell bookended the ACU errors with another kill and just like that Hope International was out in front 9-8. An attack error by the Royals knotted the score at 9-9. But a 7-1 run by HIU highlighted by three kills from Richie gave them a lead that allowed them to play out the set ahead.
Richie delivered five kills while Hagey added 4 kills. No Firestorm had more than two kills.
After surrendering the first two points of the fourth set, HIU responded with four straight and would lead by as many as three points on four different occasions with the last time coming at 11-8. The Firestorm climbed back in front with five straight points aided by two consecutive service aces from Haley Worden. Down 15-13, Hope International used a Mitchell kill and three straight ACU errors including another block Ybanez and Katelyn Post to retake the lead. Following a tie at 18-18, three kills from Richie sparked a 5-0 run to give HIU the top side of the scoreboard for good in the set.
Six kills from Richie in the fourth proved to be the difference. Arizona Christian repeated their hitting in the third and fourth set almost to a tee as they produced eight kills with eight errors in both sets.
The fifth and final set resulted in both teams just going at each other. In the 30 total points scored in the set, 14 of the points resulted in either a tie or lead change. Four kills in a five point stretch (including three straight) from Beckman pushed ACU out to a 5-2 lead. The Royals fought back to tie the set and take the lead at 6-5. From there the set saw ties at 6-6, 8-8, 9-9, 10-10, 11-11, 12-12. After the 12-12 tie, the Firestorm took the next point on a Beckman kill. However, the Royals dug just a little deeper and used 4-1 run to close out the match.
The team hitting lines show just how close the fifth set was as both teams swung away on 38 attempts each in the set. HIU managed 11 kills with 3 errors while ACU had a line of 10 kills with 4 errors.
Beckman had seven kills in the set. HIU countered with five kills from Richie and four kills from Hagey who concluded the evening with 15 kills.
Haley Worden accounted for 35 of ACU's 43 assists on the night. The Royals, who at times were running a modified 6-2 offense, saw Julianna Hicks give our 24 assists while Tiffany Ivory and Mitchell had 14 and 12 assists respectively.
Defensively, HIU concluded with an impressive 96 digs keyed by 26 digs from Patricia Flanagan. Mitchell, Hagey, and Richie all ended up with 11 digs or more. For ACU, they had five players with 11 digs or more paced by 20 digs from Beckman and 17 digs from Kendall Bergsten.
Both teams will have little time to rest as Hope International will travel to play at Westmont and Arizona Christian will play at Vanguard on Saturday. Both matches are set to start at 7:00 pm.