By Robert McKinney, Assistant Athletics Director, Communications
THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. -- Hardin-Simmons University (Texas) gained a 58-42 lead in team kills, including double-digit totals from three players, as the Cowgirls downed Willamette University, 3-1, on Saturday, Sept. 8 at the Cal Lu Fornia Invitational. HSU improved to 7-1 overall, while Willamette fell to 3-5. The Cowgirls won the match, 25-15, 26-24, 28-30, 25-17.
The two-day tournament, featuring 12 teams, began on Friday and concluded on Saturday. All matches were played on the campus of California Lutheran University.
Allison Kuster registered 12 kills to lead the Cowgirls. Meagan Bauer and Morgan Prince each tacked on 10 kills. HSU's balanced attack also included nine kills by Kaytlynn Lewis and eight kills from Sarah Bennett. Lewis topped the Cowgirls with seven blocks, including five block assists. Ashley Pierce contributed 26 assists and 11 digs, while Rebekah Hayes earned 21 assists. Kuster and Leecia DePaula each supplied Hardin-Simmons with 18 digs.
For the Bearcats, Natalie Klotz (Fr., OH/OPP, Bonner Springs, KS/Bonner Springs HS) pounded out 14 kills. It was the freshman's third consecutive match with 12 or more kills. She leads the Bearcats with 64 kills on the season (2.67 kills per set).
Jennifer Lane (Jr., MH/OH, Salinas, CA/Notre Dame HS) added 11 kills versus HSU. She had just two attacking errors and hit .360 during the match. Lane also topped Willamette with four blocks. She leads WU with 19 blocks this year (0.83 blocks per set).
Also against the Cowgirls, Jaiden Mason (So., S/OPP, Charlotte, NC/Charlotte Christian School) attained a season-high 33 assists. Elena Vasquez (So., LIBDS, Kingston, WANorth Kitsap HS) recorded a season-high 31 digs, while Lauren Kaaialii (So., OH, Honolulu, HI/Sacred Hearts Academy) produced 13 digs. The total by Vasquez was just one dig short of her career high of 32 set against University of Puget Sound on Oct. 27, 2017.
In the opening set, WU scored the first two points on kills from Khan and Lane. The Cowgirls responded with a 12-2 run, including two kills by Kuster and one ace apiece by Bauer and Hayes. HSU went on to take a 15-7 lead on its way to a 25-15 victory.
WU grabbed a 3-0 advantage in the second set, and then Hardin-Simmons scored the next three points. The score remained close until the Cowgirls used a 4-0 run to claim a 14-11 lead. Later, the margin was 24-18, but Willamette battled back with six unanswered points to tie the score at 24-24. A kill by Lewis moved HSU into the lead, and the Cowgirls won 26-24 following an attacking error by the Bearcats.
The third set included a remarkable 15 ties and six lead changes before the Bearcats prevailed 30-28. Hardin-Simmons grabbed a 10-8 lead on a service ace by Peyton Mandrell. After WU tied the score twice, HSU tallied six consecutive points for a 17-11 edge. Willamette stormed back with a 9-0 run that included a kill and a block by Klotz, an ace by Khan, and five missed attacks and a ball-handling error by the Cowgirls. WU led 20-17, but HSU went on a 4-1 run to move in front, 22-21.
Willamette held a 24-22 margin several points later after a kill from Klotz, and then HSU earned two points to tie the set. The Bearcats had set points at 25-24 and 26-25, but Hardin-Simmons tied the score twice, before the Cowgirls grabbed a 27-26 lead. The Bearcats led 28-27 on a service ace by Lauren Stiles (Jr., OH, Altadena, CA/Flintridge Preparatory School), but a kill by Bennett tied the score. An attack error by HSU pushed WU into the lead, and a kill by Lane won the set.
The fourth set was tied at 11-11. HSU surged into the lead with three consecutive points, starting with two kills by Lewis. The 3-0 swing opened a 10-2 run that gave the Cowgirls a 20-13 advantage. Hardin-Simmons won the set, 25-17.
Up next for the Bearcats is the start of Northwest Conference action at Whitworth University on Friday, Sept. 14 in Spokane, Washington. The match is slated for 7 p.m. (PDT).