Zags End Season with Senior Day Win
Nov. 20, 2017
SPOKANE, Wash.--The Gonzaga University volleyball team finished the 2017 season with a happy memory as the Bulldogs downed Portland in five sets (25-17, 21-25, 20-25, 25-22, 15-12) Monday at the Martin Centre in Spokane.
"Our team dug deep tonight with the defense we needed to play," said Gonzaga head coach Diane Nelson. "We stuck with the game plan and executed really well. When our defense got going, we were able to get ourselves back in the game. We're ending on a high note, and we're ending at .500 [in conference play]."
As was custom in 2017, the Bulldogs (14-16 overall, 9-9 West Coast Conference) played to five sets Monday afternoon. Portland jumped out to an early 0-3 lead in that deciding fifth set, but the Zags used a three-point run of their own to tie the set at five. The Pilots later re-took a two-point advantage after a 1-4 run, but back-to-back kills from Sarah Penner and Chapin Gray tied the frame at 12 apiece. Jenna Kuehn landed an attack to give the Zags the lead, and Gonzaga claimed the final five points of the frame to finish off their eighth five-set victory of the season.
In all, the Zags played to five sets 12 times this season, just one shy of the program's Division I record of 13. That was first set in 1990 and equaled in 2014.
For the second consecutive match, Penner led the way offensively for the Zags, landing another season-high 26 kills on a .328 attack percentage. Gray tallied 14 kills, and Kuehn added 10 with all but one of them coming in the final three sets. Assisting on the vast majority of those kills was Faith Smith, who set all six rotations for the first time this season. She ended the match with 57 assists, a personal best for the junior and the most by any Bulldog in over three years.
Defensively, the Zags combined for 85 digs, a season high. Libero Tiyana Hallums set the tone with 21 digs, while Penner added 19 in another career high for the freshman. Both Kuehn and Smith added 15 digs each to join Penner in double-double territory.
"Sarah Penner had a great offensive night," Nelson said. "Tiyana Hallums really helped down defensively, and Faith set a 5-1, and we haven't done that in a while. She did some things that we needed from her, and it really showed."
Before the match, redshirt senior Alyse Whitaker was honored during the Zags' Senior Day ceremony. Whitaker, the team's lone senior, added nine kills, three blocks, and three digs in her collegiate finale. A native of Murrieta, Calif., Whitaker is working on a Master's in School Counseling and will continue that work into the 2018-19 school year.
Whitaker won't be on that 2018 Gonzaga squad, but the Zags look to return five starters and 16 total players from this season. They are slated to have four seniors next year: Hallums, Smith, Kaylie Loewen, and Marit Thorkildsen.
11/20/2017 - Zags End Season with Senior Day Win
11/18/2017 - Penner Lands 22 Kills as Zags Fall in Five
11/16/2017 - Tough Night Offensively Hands VB Loss in Stockton
11/15/2017 - Zags to End Regular Season with Long Weekend
11/14/2017 - Two NLI Signees for Volleyball
11/11/2017 - VB Falls to No. 12 San Diego
11/09/2017 - VB Falls to Ninth-ranked BYU