RIVERSIDE --- Facing one of its oldest rivals, California Baptist University turned to one of its youngest faces to pull out a five-set win Thursday night.
CBU had to come back for a 3-2 (25-20, 19-25, 23-25, 25-19, 15-8) win, getting a huge contribution from freshman Jenna Perry down the stretch. Perry led all players on the night with 15 kills and a .480 hitting percentage as the Lancers move to 14-7 overall, 12-2 in the PacWest.
“Matches like that are why you play volleyball,” said head coach Branden Higa. “We needed a test like that. APU was ready to go and fought hard. It was great to see our team weather the storm and play really well down the stretch.”
Trailing 2-1 in the match, CBU went on a tear in the fourth game, going up as much as 20-14 in the set on their way to forcing a decisive fifth game. Perry finished off the set with one of her three kills right over the top of the APU block.
It was all Lancers out of the gate in the fifth as CBU took a 3-0 lead early in the set. Malika O'Brien started with a block, followed by a thunderous kill from Lauren Marr and a block from Jelena Dragovic and Taylor Parker to whip the crowd of over 800 into a frenzy.
CBU was up 8-4 at the mid-set break and after a Marr ace held a 9-4 advantage, four-straight APU points made it a one-point game and the race was on to the finish.
Perry carried the Lancers across the finish line, blasting three kills in the last six points as CBU sprinted past the visitors to close the match on a 6-0 run. Perry’s final kill was a strike from the right side that found center court to end the match.
“We had some low moments, but really picked it up at the end and realized we needed to fight,” said Perry. “The way we start really sets the tone for the game and when we got that huge lead, we fed off that momentum. I was able to just trust my setter tonight and feed off the crowd’s energy at the end. It felt great to get those kills at that point of the match.”
After winning the opening set, CBU hit below .200 in each of the next two games and committed 12 hitting errors to fall behind 2-1.
The Lancers .421 attacking percentage in the fifth set was the team’s best of the night as CBU posted nine kills and just one error in the final game.
“I think we played some of our best volleyball of the season in the fifth game,” said Higa. “Momentum is key in a fifth set. To get started the way we did, and then get Jenna going like that, was huge.”
Mattie Shelford led the Cougars with 14 kills and Ashley Swatek had 18 digs. The loss drops APU to 14-7, 7-5 and gives CBU a sweep of the regular season series.