SPOKANE, Wash. — Santa Clara volleyball's Kirsten Mead, a staple of the Bronco offense over the last four seasons, reached a career milestone and led her team to victory at Gonzaga on Saturday afternoon. The senior setter logged her 4,000th career assist and the Broncos took down the Bulldogs 25-21, 22-25, 25-21, 20-25, 15-12 in Martin Centre.
Mead hit the mark with her 42nd assist of the day in the fourth set on a kill by Hailey Lindberg. She is one of only five Broncos with 4,000 career assists and one of only two Broncos to accomplish that feat in the rally-scoring era.
The Palo Alto, California native led all players with 55 assists and added 11 digs for a double-double. She set the Broncos to a .300 hitting percentage or better in the first, third and fifth sets.
Santa Clara began its trip to the Northwest with a sweep at Portland on Thursday night. The Broncos (12-12, 5-7 WCC) have won three straight matches and five of their last seven overall. They are the only WCC team other than No. 8 BYU and No. 18 San Diego to defeat the Bulldogs (13-10, 8-3) in conference play this season.
Allison Kantor tied for the match lead with 17 kills for the Broncos and added a career-best 13 digs to make it a double-double. Jensen Cunningham (15 kills), Hailey Lindberg (12 kills on .393 hitting) and Michelle Gajdka (12 kills) played big roles to help Santa Clara upend the WCC's third-place side. The Broncos dealt the Bulldogs only their second loss at home in nine matches this year.
Jenna Kuehn logged a triple-double for Gonzaga with 10 kills, 16 assists and 15 digs; she added a match-high five blocks. Chapin Gray led the Bulldogs with 17 kills on .432 hitting and Alyse Whitaker hit .393 with 14 kills. Tiyana Hallums led all players with 19 digs.
Cunningham paced the Broncos in the deciding set, turning in five of her 15 kills on the day to help the team cap a 2-0 week. She had her second kill of the set at the end of a 5-1 run to make it 12-9 and registered kills on each of Santa Clara's last four points.
Trailing 19-15 in the first set, Santa Clara closed the frame on a 10-2 run. Gajdka had three of her five first-set kills during the stretch. Cunningham had kills on two of the last three points as part of a 5-0 set-ending run.
Kantor, whose 17 kills were the second-most of her Bronco career, led the SCU offense with seven kills in the third set. She produced back-to-back kills as Santa Clara used a 4-0 run to pull ahead 15-12 in the stanza; they led the rest of the way.
The Broncos used momentum from their first-set comeback to win the first six points of the second frame en route to a 12-3 edge. Gonzaga turned the set in its favor with a 19-4 run, including four stretches of four-plus unanswered points. Santa Clara pulled within two points of Gonzaga twice before the Bulldogs took the set to tie the match.
Gray tallied six kills as part of Bulldog set wins in the second and fourth frames. Gonzaga hit .345 in the fourth set. The Bulldogs flipped a 6-4 deficit into a 12-8 lead and stayed in front for the rest of the game to force a fifth set.
Santa Clara and Gonzaga split the season series. The Bulldogs defeated the Broncos in five sets on Sept. 28 in Santa Clara.
The Broncos will look for their fourth straight win on Friday, Nov. 3 at San Francisco.
• Santa Clara is 50-12 all-time against Gonzaga.
• Mead needs 11 more assists to reach 1,000 for the season. She tallied 1,254 assists as a freshman in 2014 and 1,228 assists as a sophomore in 2015.
• The Broncos are 6-3 in five-set matches this season. They are unbeaten in their last three five-setters.
• Cunningham notched set-clinching kills in each of the three sets Santa Clara won on Saturday. She had the match-clinching kill at Portland on Thursday night.
• Chloe Loreen has not played in Santa Clara's last two matches due to injury.
QUOTABLE (HEAD COACH JON WALLACE)
"The girls worked really hard for the first half of conference play and it's nice to see that work paying off with wins in the second half. We're playing better volleyball. We're not where we want to be yet as a team, but we're committed to getting better every day."
"Kirsten has been a stud from day one that she stepped on to campus and began playing in our program. Outside of injuries, she would have started and played every point of career which is amazing. She has led the team to tournament appearances in two of her three years so far. Kirsten is one of best setters in her class and in the country."
MEAD'S MILESTONE MOMENT
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