LA MIRADA, Calif. -- Volleyball in the Golden State Athletic Conference is not easy sledding and the opening portion of conference play for Menlo College has been brutal.
After facing two of the best teams in the conference at home last weekend, another ranked team was on the schedule. Menlo made the trip to Southern California for the weekend and started it Friday night with a match against Biola, ranked 15th in the nation. Menlo showed up ready for the challenge and nearly pulled off a couple of upsets but Biola was able to squeak by and take all three sets.
Biola improved to 12-5 and 3-0 in conference play while the Oaks fell to 5-9 and 0-3 in GSAC matches.
The first set was about as tight as any match can get. Neither side held an advantage of more than three points as they flip flopped back and forth. Up 24-21 late, the Eagles needed just one more point to wrap up the first set but the Oaks would not be denied. Kills from Kenzie Carpenter, Sofia Salim Ponce, and Maddie Clegg knotted the match at 24-24. A pair of kills from the Biola side pushed the Eagles across as they were barely able to escape with the victory 26-24.
Set number two saw another comeback by Menlo, this time a bit more furious than in the first set. Down 21-14, which would prove to be the largest deficit of the night, Menlo pushed it back to a four-point match at 24-20.
Errors from the Biola side on the attack and service played a crucial role while Emily Sunada came up clutch with a kill that kept the Oaks alive. But once again the Eagles were able to stifle the momentum the Oaks would build up and put the nail in the coffin on set two with a 25-20 victory.
Set three was competitive once more as the Oaks and Eagles were locked in another tight dual. Back and forth the two sides went until Biola built up a five-point lead a 16-11. The Oaks were able to rally back with kills from Carpenter, Clegg, and Sierra Buscher as the Oaks eventually pulled within two to make it 21-19. That final push seemed to evade Menlo all night long as they were unable to close and Biola was able to seize the momentum at the end of the set once more, scoring four of the final six points and ending the set at 25-21.
Sunada led the way with 8 kills, while Clegg and Carpenter each tallied 7. Hannah Hudson continued to lead the team in digs with 11, while Sunada stood tall at the net once again en route to recording 5 block assists (the Oaks out-blocked the Eagles 8-4 as a team). Jade Rockwood fooled the Eagles twice, earning two of the Oaks three service aces.
The trip wraps up Saturday as the Oaks square off against Hope International University. First serve is set for 2:00 p.m. as Menlo looks to get their first conference win of the season in a place where they won in three sets one year ago.