COSTA MESA, Calif. - After a huge week which featured three wins, including an upset of then-No. 10 Westmont on the road, Vanguard re-emerged in the Tachikara-NAIA Volleyball Coaches' poll, sitting just four spots out of the nation's top-25 with 48 votes. Friday's match with No. 11 Cal State San Marcos was therefore the perfect test and opportunity for the Pride to make an impression. The Lions did not disappoint, delivering a roaring 3-0 (25-15, 25-20, 25-22) upset in The Pit.
"Tonight was a huge challenge for us to see if we could carry on our winning streak and continue the upward climb," Head Coach Eryn Leja said. "I think now we have really established ourselves and are getting really comfortable with each other on the court. We won tonight because of our execution. Our serving, serve receive, passing and once again, our block, was solid. This was another big night for JD coming off of her award this week. Our lone senior, Candace, was awesome tonight; she played a huge part in this win."
The Lions put forth a stellar offensive and defensive effort early in the first to jump out to a 12-6 lead over the Cougars. Golden State Athletic Conference player of the week sophomore Jessica Neves (Mission Viejo, Calif.) extended the lead with an ace to make it 18-9 and senior Candace Cedarstrom (Ladera Ranch, Calif.) destroyed an over-passed ball to give Vanguard a 10-point lead at 19-9. The Lions put away the set at 25-15 on a powerful kill by freshman Rachael Barker (Torrance, Calif.), who garnered three in the opening frame. Sophomore libero Kelly Heenan (Costa Mesa, Calif.) single-handedly frustrated the CSUSM offense, digging up 11 of Cougars' the attempts to lead the VU defense.
Set two was close throughout, featuring multiple ties and a stalemate as late as 20-20, but a service error by San Marcos, three successive kills by Neves and a service ace compliments of Heenan took the Lions over the top at 25-20.
Using momentum from set two, Vanguard bounded to an 11-5 advantage in the third. The Cougars were able to bring the frame within two at 13-11 but a strategically called timeout by Leja woke the Lions up and Vanguard brought its edge back to five at 19-14. The Cougars rallied once again to pull within two at 22-20 but Barker responded, slamming a pair of kills to make it 24-21. Two plays later, sophomore Kendall Haldi (Fallbrook, Calif.) and Neves roofed CSUSM's Kelli McLin (Huntington Beach, Calif.) to end the Cougars' bid.
Heenan ended the night with a match-high 20 digs for Vanguard. Sophomore Ashli Bellinger (Chandler, Ariz.) and classmate Carly Maxwell (Bakersfield, Calif.) chipped in eight and seven digs to aid the defensive enterprise. Additionally, Maxwell dispersed a team-best 18 assists on the night.
Neves' all-around performance included 11 kills, 14 assists, four digs and a service ace. Freshman Carla Cantarella (Huntington Beach, Calif.) managed two aces of her own in the contest, while Cedarstrom posted two solo blocks in her notable effort. Cedarstrom and Barker finished with ten and nine kills, respectively, and Cedarstrom, Neves and Barker recorded imposing hitting percentages of .529, .611 and .533 in the conquest.
The Blue and Gold have won five straight matches and advance to 14-9 overall. Cal State San Marcos has been swept by two consecutive GSAC schools, Vanguard and No. 2 Concordia. The Cougars sit at 18-10 on the season.
Vanguard will resume GSAC play on Saturday, October 20th on the road at Hope International. The match is scheduled for 7:00pm.