The Zags lined up against their first ranked opponents of the year last weekend, falling in three sets to No. 18 San Diego and No. 7 BYU...the losses snapped Gonzaga’s seven-match win streak and the 6-0 unbeaten start to West Coast Conference play.
At San Diego, mids Alyse Whitaker and Payton Mack stood out for the Zags, combining for 22 of the team’s 34 kills and a .465 attack percentage...the two also tallied 4.0 of the team’s 7.0 blocks...in Provo, the Zags nearly took the second set off BYU before falling 26-24...the frame saw 12 tie scores and six lead changes, and Gonzaga even held one set point at 23-24.
Overall, Mack led the team with 16 kills and a .412 hitting percentage last weekend...she also tallied seven block assists, helping in more than half of the Zags’ blocks...Whitaker added 14 kills, and libero Tiyana Hallums posted 33 digs, 5.50 a set.
(JUST ABOUT) HALFWAY THERE:
Saturday’s match at Portland marks the halfway point of the WCC season...with six wins in WCC play, the Zags have already met their program high set in 1990...that season, the Zags finished second in the conference with a 9-5 record and earned a bid to the NCAA tournament.
No matter the outcome of Saturday’s match, this season will contain Gonzaga’s second-best record in WCC play at the midpoint of conference play...they were 6-1 (.857) through seven games in 1990 (with eight teams, the WCC schedule consisted of only 14 matches).
Gonzaga has been over .500 in the first half of conference play in three of the last four seasons...in both 2014 and 2016, they were 5-4 in the first go-around against WCC foes...before 2014, that had not happened since 1990.
ALL GOOD THINGS MUST COME TO AN END:
The Zags’ seven-match win streak that was snapped last weekend was tied for the second-longest in GU’s Division I history...the only longer streak came in 2007 when the Zags won eight in a row.
Prior to the six-win start to WCC play, the Zags had last won six consecutive conference matches in 1994...they won a school-record eight straight WCC matches that year.
WCC PNW VB SHOWDOWN:
Gonzaga leads the overall series with their closest conference neighbor 43-20...the Zags have won each of the last eight matches, a streak that began in 2013.
The Zags are 19-12 on the road against Portland...their last loss inside the Chiles Center came in 2011.
Last year, the Zags swept the Pilots 3-0 in mid-October before ending the year with a heart-pounding 3-2 win at Portland...the season finale was a defensive slugfest with the Zags tallying 93 digs – the most by a GU squad since 2010 – while Portland tallied 108...five different Zags reached double-digits digs in that five-setter.
Portland/Gonzaga matches have always resulted in high dig totals for the Zags...four of the team’s 10 highest dig totals during the rally scoring era have come against Portland, as have the highest totals during a three-set, four-set, and five-set match.
SPEAKING OF DEFENSE...:
Like everything else on the team, the Zags’ defense is a defense by committee this season...four Zags have over 150 digs on the season, and all four (DS Marit Thorkildsen, DS/OH Tiyana Hallums, S Faith Smith, OPP/S Jenna Kuehn) average over 2.00 a set...Hallums leads the team with 224 total digs, while Thorkildsen tops with 2.93 digs a frame.
Against WCC foes, Hallums is averaging 3.71 digs a set...that’s eighth-most in the league.
FIRST YEAR, NO FEAR:
The Zags have seven freshmen on the roster, six of which have taken the court...GU’s attack is led by first-years OH Sarah Penner and OH Chapin Gray, who are first and second on the team with 176 and 163 kills, respectively...in all, freshmen have tallied 382 kills this season, 40.4% of the team’s tally.
DS Gretchen Rudel has played in 51 sets, third-most among the freshmen, and has 51 digs, 1.00 a frame...OPP Abby Knapp comes next at 34 sets...she’s registered 40 kills and 16 blocks...S Mary Marzo has seen action in 12 sets, providing 30 assists.
DS Julia Talarico made her collegiate debut against Pepperdine Oct. 5...in 11 sets over the last two weekends, she’s added 14 digs and even registered a kill against LMU Oct. 7...six of those digs came Saturday at BYU, a season high.
STUCK IN THE MIDDLE...WITH US:
At the net, the Zags average 2.01 blocks a set overall, and that number increases to 2.12 per frame in WCC play...MB Payton Mack leads the squad with 37 total blocks against WCC foes – 1.09 a set – and MB Alyse Whitaker is second with 33 total, 0.97 per frame...OPP Hailey Dunn is third at 0.62 a set.
Offensively, the middles have stood out during WCC play...senior Alyse Whitaker leads the team and is eighth in the conference with a .341 attack percentage...sophomore Payton Mack is ninth at .340...both their season highs in kills came Oct. 5 at Pepperdine with Whitaker landing 13 on a .357 percentage and Mack 12 on a .450 mark.
ON THE PILOTS:
Portland is currently 13-7 this season…the Pilots also lost both matches on the BYU/San Diego road trip, falling in three sets in both...they are tied for fifth in the WCC at 4-4 with wins over Saint Mary’s, San Francisco, Santa Clara, and Pepperdine.
Hannah Troutman is second in the WCC in kills and leads the team with 307, 4.04 a set…Cali Thomspon is the Pilots’ primary setter with 788 for the season, currently second overall in the WCC.
Defensively, Katie Barker protects the net for Portland with 61.0 blocks…Morgan Robinson carries the team with 257 digs, averaging 3.38 a frame.