Volleyball Takes Down UC Riverside In The Gonzaga Invitational
SPOKANE, Wash. - The Gonzaga University volleyball team kicked off the second day of the Gonzaga Invitational with a 3-0 (25-22, 25-19, 25-21) victory over UC Riverside to boost its record to 2-3 on the season.
"I'm happy for us," smiled fourth year head coach Dave Gantt. "We now have a chance to go 2-1 in our own tournament and get to .500 on the season. It's a nice place to be."
UC Riverside won its first tournament match Friday over Eastern Washington University and the Bulldogs were coming off a loss to South Dakota State University, but that would hardly matter as Gonzaga handled its business.
Very quickly in the first set Gonzaga established a 14-7 lead. Redshirt freshman Savannah Blinn had a strong first set, much like she has all season, and posted 5 kills on 12 attempts. The Highlanders would rally back on an 8-4 run, but it was too little too late and Blinn sealed the set with a kill down the line.
"I think with Savannah, she just needs to continue to gain confidence," Gantt reflected. "We can see from last weekend and this weekend that her expectations for herself are matching what we have for her. Everyone knows Savannah is a player, so we need to keep developing everyone else. She is a beneficiary of everyone around her and her success mimics the teams."
Much like the first set, the Bulldogs wasted no time getting an early lead in the second. An early 4-0 advantage was pushed to a 9-4 lead favoring Gonzaga. However, a series of Bulldog errors brought the Highlanders back and UC Riverside took a 14-13 lead forcing Gantt to take a time out.
"We had a number of errors, so we smoothed out our sixth rotation," Gantt said. "For us, it's playing the key points with the same composure we play the first points with. I like our response and I like how we educated ourselves."
That Gonzaga response was highlighted by sophomore Katie Rutherford and her huge block that tied the match at 15. From then on, it was just taking care of business and Gonzaga closed the set with a 10-4 run and took the two set lead.
"As long as we turn all of our experiences into learning opportunities, we will be fine," explained Gantt. "If we are aware of that, it will help us in big game situations. For the freshman, this is a different stage than they are used to being in, so by being patient our level of play will average out."
Much like their previous match Friday night against South Dakota State, the Zags went into the break up 2-0. Unlike the previous match, the Bulldogs made the plays down the stretch to close the match.
Yesterday's match is one we have to use as a learning opportunity for both coaches and players," Gantt said. "We could not get overly upset and we said to each other that we will continue to be in this position many times. We are encouraged by the level of play both days. We talked about this before the match and during the break. We separated ourselves in the second and to me that shows five matches of maturity that we did not have last weekend."
UC Riverside would not allow the Zags to just walk away with the third set, but the Bulldog defense was able to stifle the Highlander attack enough to finish the match. The Zags went on a blocking frenzy as the team picked up five in the set by five different Bulldogs. Gonzaga out blocked the Highlanders by a 12 to four margin during the match.
The three set sweep was the first of the year by Gonzaga.
Gonzaga will be back in action in the final match of the Gonzaga Invitational at 6 p.m. in the Martin Centre. The Bulldogs will face in-state rival Eastern Washington University.