Heartbreaking 5-set defeat versus Pacific spoils home opener
THE SANTA CLARA
September 29, 2016
The Broncos were unable to get back into the win column after a devastating 5-set loss to the University of Pacific Tuesday night. Santa Clara entered their home opener on a five game losing streak after dropping both matches to Brigham Young University and University of San Diego this past week.
Santa Clara got off to a slow start, finding themselves down 14-8 midway through the first set. The Broncos cut the lead down to two, but that was the closest they came as they dropped the first set 25-22.
Led by senior Nikki Hess, the Broncos bounced back and won the next two sets 25-21 and 25-20. Hess netted nearly half of the team’s kills, but this singular attack could not last the entire match.
“We have to continue to have more balance in our offense,” said Head Coach Jon Wallace. “Nikki has too much. I mean she’s a work horse, she’s such a stud, but ultimately we have to distribute our sets a bit better.”
With a raucous crowd at their backs, the Broncos struggled in the beginning of the set and found themselves down 12- 18. Santa Clara then went on a 8-2 run to even the score at 20-20, but squandered the final five points of the set.
Entering the fifth set, the match was nearly dead even. Santa Clara had 92 points after four sets of play; Pacific had 91.
The pattern of the final set was all too familiar. Santa Clara struggled out of the gate, digging themselves into a 5-9 hole. They fought back and even took the lead at 12-11, but dropped four of the final five points. Pacific took the match when the Broncos botched a routine return.
After starting off the season 9-0, Santa Clara is back to earth with six straight losses. There’s no way to sugarcoat that 0-6 stretch, but the season is far from over.
Santa Clara visits Gonzaga on Thursday, Sept. 29 at 6:00 p.m. before heading to Portland to face the Pilots on Saturday, Oct. 1 at 1:00 p.m. Both of these games are winnable, as Gonzaga and Portland are a combined 1-3 in the WCC.
“This team has been road tested. We spent 14 straight matches on the road,” said Coach Wallace. “We know what it’s like and we know how to prepare.”
The term must-win is overused, but it actually works in this situation. Santa Clara is 0-3 so far in conference play, with the losses coming against the top teams in the WCC. Going forward, the Broncos can’t afford to fall to mediocre opponents if they want to establish themselves as a serious contender. If next week they’re at 0-5, the season is all but over.
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