By Mason Nesbitt
For The Signal
Westmont’s Patty Kerman flipped the ball over the net and into a pocket of the floor uncovered by any Master’s defender, giving the Warriors a win in Saturday’s opening set and for the moment, quieting a rowdy home crowd.
This was not the start The Master’s University women’s volleyball team wanted. But it’s one they’ve come to embrace.
Master’s earned 17 sweeps and reached a fifth set only three times in 2018.
The 2019 Mustangs do not thrive on their ability to coast. They thrive on the ability to regroup.
In the huddle after Saturday’s first set, coach Allan Vince explained how Master’s would climb out of its latest hole.
“I said, ‘Here’s our goals. We need more touches on the block. We need to make our serve calls. We need to have bodies hitting the floor on defense, and we need to cut down on our hitting errors,'” Vince said. “They did all those things and we won.”
Indeed. The Mustangs rallied for a 3-1 win over No. 17 Westmont inside The MacArthur Center, beating the Warriors in Newhall in back to back years for the first time since 2007-2008 and moving within one win of first place in the Golden State Athletic Conference.
Regan Tate led Master’s (13-8, 7-3 GSAC) with 11 kills, and Hart grad Madi Fay followed with eight kills and three total blocks in what Vince called Fay’s most inspired performance on the season.
As a team, it was a decisive turnaround from a 3-0 loss to the Warriors in Santa Barbara in September. Maybe the most notable improvement came at the net.
In September, the Mustangs compiled six total blocks, failing to find an answer for Westmont’s talented stable of attackers. This time, Master’s posted 20 total blocks, none bigger than Fay’s and Emily Scott’s joint rejection of Brooklynn Cheney, which moved the score to 24-18 in favor of Master’s in the fourth set. After a four-point Warrior run, Rebecca Swenning ended the night with a powerful kill.
It was the second time Master’s managed to hold Westmont (17-4, 8-2) off in a tight set.
Jane Cisar and Katie Emmerling blocked Cassidy Rea, one of the conference’s best attackers, to give Master’s a 26-25 lead in the third set. Tate sealed it with a kill on the ensuing play, raising her arms in celebration.
“We came in here wanting to defend our home court and show the work we’ve been putting in at practice,” said libero McKenna Hafner, who had 13 digs. “… What was different (from the first matchup) was our confidence and resolve to win. We showed a lot of grit, and we weren’t going to give up no matter what.”
Not even after Master’s allowed the Warriors to hit .353 in an uninspiring first set, which Westmont won 25-17.
“We just talked about how that isn’t us,” Hafner said of the meeting before set two. “There were a lot of good things. We needed to channel the good things and forget the things that were bad. We just came out firing. We talked about confidence. We talked about playing for the person next to you and not letting anything rattle you.”
Emmerling finished with 33 assists for Master’s, which rebounded quickly from losses to Hope International and William Jessup earlier in the year, winning the following match in each instance.
The Mustangs beat San Diego Christian last month after dropping the first set, and they showed similar resolve Saturday in front of a large, and loud, gathering of TMU fans.
“The atmosphere was absolutely incredible,” said sophomore Emilye Grace Williams, who had nine kills. “I loved our student section and all the parents that came out. … It was so loud. I couldn’t hear anything.”
Soccer set for Top 25 home matchups
The Master’s University men’s and women’s soccer teams will host a pair of ranked Westmont squads on Saturday at TMU.
The Westmont women, ranked No. 7 in the NAIA, will visit Reese Field at 11 a.m. on Saturday. While the No. 4-ranked Westmont men will be on hand for a 1:30 p.m. start.
The Mustang men are coming off a 2-0 win over No. 25 Menlo on Saturday, with Brayden Campos and Valencia grad Dylan Bielanski providing the goals.
For Bielanski, it was his team-high ninth goal of the season, which marks a career high.
Basketball ready for season openers
TMU women’s basketball will host Azusa Pacific at 5 p.m. on Oct. 24 at TMU.
Later that night, the men will host Concordia University Irvine. Tip-off for the men is set for 8 p.m.