FRESNO, Calif. — Santa Clara volleyball was moments away from remaining perfect on the season, but lost in heartbreaking fashion in the finale of the Fresno State Invitational on Friday at Save Mart Center.
The Broncos (6-1) opened the day with a 25-22, 25-13, 25-18 sweep of CSU Bakersfield, but lost to Fresno State 20-25, 25-17, 25-20, 21-25, 19-17. Allison Kantor, Liliana Light and Taylor Odom earned spots on the all-tournament team.
SANTA CLARA 3, CSU BAKERSFIELD 0 (25-22, 25-13, 25-18)
Julia Sangiacomo hit .424 with 17 kills and added seven digs in the first match of the day for Santa Clara. Michelle Shaffer had a match-high 20 assists to go with nine kills and six digs while Michelle Gajdka chipped in nine kills and led the Broncos with 14 digs. CSU Bakersfield's Emily Hansen had a team-high nine kills and Jordan Ishida led all players with 14 digs. The Broncos outhit the Roadrunners (1-5) .330 to .211, topping .300 hitting for the fifth time in six matches.
Santa Clara found its offensive footing late in the first set. Following a 4-1 run by the Roadrunners that put them ahead 17-15, the Broncos scored four straight points and five of the next six; Shaffer delivered three kills during that stretch that resulted in a 20-18 Bronco lead. SCU got on set point after side outs on 11 straight rallies and secured the frame on a misfire by Leisa Elisaia. The Broncos committed five attacking errors (on no Bakersfield blocks) in a 14-point span in the middle of the stanza, then went error-free over the last 19 points.
SCU maintained its momentum in the second set, using a 10-1 run to distance itself from Cal State Bakersfield for a 17-6 lead. Four Broncos produced a kill during the spree and Light served up a pair of aces. The team hit .382 in the frame and spread out the kills among nine players.
The Broncos fell behind early in the third set after committing three attacking errors and missing on a serve as part of a 5-1 stretch that gave the Roadrunners an 8-4 lead. Santa Clara answered by going on an 11-2 run — including three kills from Sangiacomo — to take a 15-10 lead and had at least a three-point edge the rest of the way.
FRESNO STATE 3, SANTA CLARA 2 (20-25, 25-17, 25-20, 21-25, 19-17)
Desiree Sukhov posted a match-best 30 kills and added 15 digs to help Fresno State hold off the Broncos, who suffered their first loss of the season.
Kantor had a double-double (season-high 19 kills, career-high tying 18 digs) and Odom posted nine kills and 10 total blocks for Santa Clara, which produced a .188 attack percentage in the match.
The Bulldogs (4-2) were just slightly better on the attack (.192) in their first five-set outing of the season.
Fresno State jumped out to a 7-1 lead in the deciding set before the Broncos rallied. They scored the next four points fueled by three FSU errors and pulled even for the first time 13-all. The Bulldogs staved off match point at 14-13 on a kill from Sukhov. A kill from Kantor on match point tied it at 15-all and one from Michelle Gadjka gave the Broncos a 17-16 lead, but Fresno State cashed in on three straight errors to close out the match.
Shaffer chipped in eight kills, 18 assists and 18 digs for the Broncos.
Amilya Thompson posted 12 kills and Savanah Smith had 10 for the Bulldogs who got nine kills from Sukhov in the third set, including the final four, to pull ahead 2-1 in the match.
The teams were tied 7-all in the fourth set before the Broncos separated by scoring seven of the next nine points. The Bulldogs made one last push, closing with 18-17 on an attack error, but Gadjka and Kantor had back-to-back kills and Fresno State helped with four attack errors, sending the match to the thrilling final set.
QUOTABLE - HEAD COACH ERIN LINDSEY
On the Bakersfield match: "It look us a while to get going. We were out of system quite a bit in the first set, but once we found our rhythm we played some good volleyball. I was happy to get Kamrin Caoili into the match to get some work with her in our system and develop that attacking option on the right side."
On the Fresno State match: "Credit to Fresno State on a hard-fought match. That's why you play good opponents early in the season, to figure out what you need to work on, and we'll get better from this one. I thought we were too predictable in some of the big moments. Still, we showed some good resilience, especially in the fifth set to almost come back and win it."
The Broncos play their first home matches of the season as co-hosts of the Santa Clara/San José State Tournament next week. They face the Spartans Thursday at 6 p.m., Marist Friday at 6 p.m. and Northern Colorado Saturday at 1 p.m. All three matches will be played in Leavey Center.
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