SANTA MONICA, Calif. — Santa Clara beach volleyball took down a pair of Bay Area foes as part of a three-match slate on opening day of the 2017 West Coast Conference Championship. After being swept in their opening match against third-seeded Loyola Marymount, the sixth-seeded Broncos staved off elimination twice in a matter of hours Friday at Ocean Park Beach.
The Broncos (3-11), who won just one time in 11 tries during the regular season, defeated seventh-seeded San Francisco 3-2 and fourth-seeded Pacific 4-1 to advance to Saturday's action. Santa Clara was 0-4 all-time against the Tigers (4-10) entering Friday's matchup.
"Overall, it was a great, great team effort," head coach Jon Wallace said. "The team set its goal to get to Saturday, and the girls were determined to accomplish that goal. When they went out against Pacific, you could see the determination in how they played to get the victory."
Facing elimination and San Francisco in their second match, the Broncos got out to a 2-0 lead against the Dons (0-17) with sweeps by Tatiana San Juan/Michelle Gajdka at No. 4 and Erin Reineking/Callie Jones at No. 5. San Francisco rallied to tie the match at 2-2 with three-set wins from Emily Reed/Nora Buvarp-Lavik at No. 1 and Carly Lowry/Dane Miller at No. 3.
The Don comeback bid gave way to a winner-take-all third set between Santa Clara's Jensen Cunningham/Kirsten Mead and San Francisco's Marjolijn Oskam/Camille Araujo at No. 2. Following a pair of sets decided by two points apiece, Cunningham and Mead pulled away to win the final set 15-10 and clinch the match.
"Jensen showed outstanding leadership today and was one of the big reasons why the girls reached their goal," Wallace said.
The Broncos struck first against the Tigers by way of a 21-10, 21-17 sweep from Hailey Lindberg/Taylor Laugero at No. 3. Reineking and Jones, who had not been paired together before Friday, made it two wins in two tries by grinding out a 21-18, 22-20 victory over Ashlyn Fleming/Skylar Wine.
Cunningham and Mead controlled play in their third set with a 15-5 edge over Katrin Gotterba/Maycie LaBass to clinch the match. Nikki Hess/Allison Kantor capped the day with their first dual victory of the season at No. 1.
The Broncos take on second-seeded Saint Mary's at 10:30 a.m. The Gaels defeated the Broncos 4-1 in the first match of the season on March 4 at Stanford and swept the season series with a 5-0 win April 4 at home.
The winner takes on the losing team between top-seeded Pepperdine and third-seeded Loyola Marymount at noon. The Waves defeated the Tigers while the Lions defeated the Broncos and Gaels on Friday.
MATCH 2: NO. 3 LOYOLA MARYMOUNT 5 – NO. 6 SANTA CLARA 0
Order of Finish: 5, 4, 1 (Clinched Match), 2, 3
MATCH 6 (ELIMINATION): NO. 6 SANTA CLARA 3 – NO. 7 SAN FRANCISCO 2
Order of Finish: 5, 4, 1, 3, 2 (Clinched Match)
MATCH 8 (ELIMINATION): NO. 6 SANTA CLARA 4 – NO. 4 PACIFIC 1
Order of Finish: 3, 5, 2 (Clinched Match), 4, 1