Zags Finish Strong in Phoenix
Sept. 9, 2017
PHOENIX, Ariz.—The Gonzaga University volleyball team wrapped up the GCU Tournament on a strong note Saturday, downing Grand Canyon and Fordham at the GCU Arena in Phoenix.
“We had steady, consistent volleyball players out there today,” said Gonzaga head coach Diane Nelson. “We saw contributions from everyone, and we served really tough.”
Match One: Gonzaga 3, Grand Canyon 0 (25-20, 25-23, 26-24)
The Zags opened the day with a sweep over host school Grand Canyon after the team’s best defensive showing of the year. They set season highs in blocks and digs, dominating the Antelopes 13-4 and 70-57 in those respective categories.
Junior Marit Thorkildsen worked her way into the Gonzaga history books after tallying 24 digs, tied for No. 3 on the Zags’ three-set digs list. It’s also the most digs in a three-setter during the rally-scoring era. Faith Smith added 18 digs, pairing those with 15 assists for her first double-double of the day and third of the season.
Redshirt senior Alyse Whitaker led all players with nine blocks, topping her old best she set at Duke by two. Freshman Sarah Penner added four total blocks while both Jenna Kuehn and Abby Knapp saw three.
Despite Gonzaga not ceding a set, the match was tightly contested with 30 total tie scores and 11 lead changes. The first set was close until the Zags went on a 6-1 run late in the frame, and the final two frames were in doubt until the final points. GU actually trailed 23-24 in the third but won the final three points to clinch the sweep.
Match Two: Gonzaga 3, Fordham 1 (25-16, 25-18, 23-25, 25-15)
Gonzaga’s form continued into the afternoon to cap off the two-win day. In both the first and second sets, the Bulldogs jumped out to early leads and held on for strong victories, and the Zags nearly pulled off another late third-set rally for another sweep. In the fourth, GU took command with a 10-2 run and didn’t look back, finishing off the set 25-15 and the match 3-1.
Kuehn did it all offensively for the Zags in the afternoon, leading the match with 12 kills and adding 13 assists. It was her third double-double of the season but first that involved kills, setting a personal best in the process. Whitaker and Chapin Gray each landed 10 kills apiece, and they each hit .333 or better against the Rams.
Defensively, three Zags reached double-digits in digs: Thorkildsen, Smith, and Tiyana Hallums. Thorkildsen followed up her historic morning with 16 digs, and Smith once again posted a double-double with 10 digs and 27 assists. Hallums contributed 10 digs to the winning effort as well.
With the two wins, Gonzaga advances to 4-5 on the season. They’ll wrap up the non-conference schedule next weekend at the Denver Invitational in Denver. There, the Bulldogs will face San Diego State, UC Riverside, and host school University of Denver. The first match will come Friday, Sept. 15 against the Pioneers at 5:00 p.m. Pacific.
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