P-P Volleyball Overcomes Injuries, Splits Weekend Games

Understaffed but undeterred, Pomona-Pitzer women’s volleyball split their two games over the weekend, narrowly losing to Chapman University but beating Redlands University. With a home crowd of 150 to cheer them on, the Sagehens were ready to take on the Redlands Bulldogs Friday night, even without power hitters Allie Frappier PO ’15 and Kirea Mazzolini PO ’15, who were sidelined due to injuries.

Beth Smilkstein PO ’14 evened the score of the first game of the match at three with an ace and a Sam Cahill PO ’15 kill tied it at six. The Hens took the lead after two Bulldog attack errors, but the score became tied yet again at eight, 10, and 11. The Sagehens began to find a rhythm after the tight opening, and, after a service error from each side, P-P went ahead 18-13. The Bulldogs scored three kills in a row, but three kills from Stephanie Sun PO ’17 helped the Hens clinch the victory 25-19.

The lead alternated between the Bulldogs and the Hens for the first five points of the second game until Kelli Derrah PO ’17 ended the back and forth, pounding three kills in rapid succession. Slight errors from P-P brought Redlands within three to 12-9, but the Hens responded, going 13-4 to close out the game. Sun had a pair of aces and a pair of kills, Derrah had three kills, and an Emma Burdekin PO ’16 and Michelle Schultz PO ’14 block earned P-P point 25.

Looking to finish the match in three games, the Hens started out strong with kills from Dani Kritter PO ’15, Ellen Yamasaki PZ ’14, Cahill, and Sun to take an early 6-2 lead. Two solid Bulldog blocks stopped the momentum and tightened the score, but Schultz earned three points for the Hens through a block and two kills, and a service error from each side pushed the score to 10-14. However, P-P could not find pay-dirt for some time and became stuck at 14. The Bulldogs went on a 12-point run, just briefly interrupted by their own attack error. A Cahill block and a Derrah kill brought the Hens back within five, but Redlands ended up taking the game 25-19.

The Bulldogs jumped out ahead 6-3 in the fourth game of the match, but a Cahill-Yamasaki block and a pair of kills from Derrah put the Hens back on top. Sarah Gamble PO ’17 mentioned that the team “thrives under pressure” and they continued to prove that as the game progressed and the score grew tighter. A pair of Bulldog kills neutralized a pair of Schultz kills, and an attack error from each side tied the game at 12. Sun added four more kills to her double-digit performance to put P-P ahead, but a Bulldog block tied the score for the seventh time in the game. Redlands was ready to take the match to its fifth and final game at 23-22, but Yamasaki had a different idea, slamming the ball down to tie it (for the ninth time) at 23. A Bulldog error gave the Hens match point. In the final rally, Kritter and Smilkstein each scooped crucial digs, resulting in a Redlands attack landing out of bounds to give P-P the victory.

The Hens put up strong numbers in the match, particularly the first-years: Stephanie Sun had 17 kills and Derrah had 12, while Elizabeth Sun PO ’17 stood out on defense with 22 assists. Smilkstein, currently averaging 4.52 digs per set, had 23 digs on the night.

P-P traveled Saturday afternoon to play against the Chapman Panthers. The Hens got off to a quick start with a pair of kills from both Cahill and Derrah, and capitalized on Panther attack errors. Cahill and Derrah also added a block, as did Schultz, which brought the score to 10-6. Mazzolini had her first kill of the match, returning from a slight flare-up from a previous ACL injury, while P-P’s offense continued to attack with contributions from Schultz, Kritter, and Yamasaki. Mazzolini added an ace while on serving duty, and both Derrah and Stephanie Sun had a pair of kills, increasing the Hens’ lead to 22-15. The Panthers tried to capitalize on a few Hen errors, but a block from Yamasaki and Mazzolini finished the game 25-21 for P-P.

The Panthers had their claws out to begin the second game, jumping ahead 10-3. Sun and Cahill blocked Chapman’s Val Geiger to give P-P their fifth point, and Cahill pounded a kill for point number six. The Hens failed to turn the tide of the game, however, as Chapman stretched their lead 16-7. Mazzolini and Yamasaki each notched another kill, but a string of three missed kills in a row from the Hens gave Chapman the game 25-13.

A Chapman block gave the Panthers their first point of the third game, answered by a Mazzolini kill. P-P fell behind again, 3-9, but kills from Sun and Mazzolini coupled with three Chapman errors brought the Hens within two. However, perhaps feeding off of their home crowd, the Panthers went on a tear with six kills in a row, going 10-4 over thirteen points. Mazzolini served her second ace of the night, but the third game also went to Chapman 25-16.

The fourth and decisive game read much like the ones before: The Panthers charged ahead, 10-3. Stephanie Sun and Lena Fox PO ’17 combined for three kills in a row, and Mazzolini added a pair of her own to bring P-P’s points to 12. Chapman kept rolling though, using Hen errors to pull ahead 21-13, and despite another pair of kills from both Mazzolini and Sun, the Panthers cruised to victory 25-19.

This was the first match that P-P did not have a hitter with double-digit kills (a spot usually occupied by Frappier, who rested for her second straight match), although Mazzolini, who had rested Friday’s match, came close with nine. 

Gamble also said that in Frappier’s absence “Beth, Ellen, and Kirea constantly provide a strong leadership foundation on our team. They keep us motivated and focused throughout the match, both on the bench and on the court.” 

Leadership is often proven through example: Smilkstein dug out 21 Panther hits, and Yamasaki notched eight kills.

P-P moved to 4-3 in conference play, still in third place, and 9-6 on the season. The Hens will host Kenyon College at 7:30 p.m. on Friday night.

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