LANCASTER, Calif. (Sept. 6, 2016) – Freshman Alexa Lauinger (Ortonville, Mich. / Brandon) posted a double-double in her collegiate debut as the Caltech volleyball team opened its season with a first set victory before ultimately falling, 3-1, at West Coast Baptist College on Tuesday night.
Lauinger led the team with 12 kills and racked up a whopping 20 digs in a brilliant debut performance. As a team, Caltech showed a degree of consistency in attack, smacking eight kills in each set, but struggled on defense, surrendering 14 more kills and 12 service aces to the Eagles in front of a raucous home crowd.
Freshman Lauren Li (Bellaire, Texas / Bellaire) started the season as well as possible, serving up an ace for the first point as Caltech built up an 8-5 lead. The hosts rode a 12-6 run to flip that margin, but the Beavers recovered thanks in part to back-to-back aces by freshman Mei-Ling Laures (Chicago, Ill. / British Int'l School of Chicago), eventually taking the lead at 20-19 and winning five of the next six points to claim the 25-21 victory and 1-0 match lead.
A trio of Eagles errors to start the second set handed Caltech a 4-0 lead, but WCBC ran off 12 of the next 13 points to surge ahead, 12-5. Caltech could only put together as many as three points once, which came behind consecutive aces from Li, before falling, 25-21.
A slow start to the third set saw WCBC move ahead 4-1, but this time it was the Beavers' turn to rattle off four straight points for the 5-4 edge. WCBC had a response soon after, however, notching another six straight and later posting five unanswered to claim a 25-19 win and take a 2-1 lead in the match.
The hosts put Caltech in a huge 13-5 hole to open the fourth set, but the Beavers refused to cave despite their youth. With Lauinger serving, Caltech made a stand with six straight points to pull back within one and, after falling back behind by four, rattled off another four consecutive on Li's serve to tie the set at 20-20. A bad set and reception error helped WCBC to reach match point at 24-21, which the Beavers survived twice before finally succumbing, 25-23.
Sophomore Sakthi Vetrivel (Redmond, Wash. / Overlake School) also reached double figures with 10 kills and added two blocks, while rookie Ellie Walker (Minneapolis, Minn. / Blake School) paced the squad with a .333 hitting percentage behind four kills without a single attacking error. Walker combined with Laures to record 26 assists while Li notched 12 digs and a team-best five aces. Freshman Julia Fay (Oakland, Calif. / College Prep. School) also posted her first career kill in the match.
Head Coach Tom Gardner and the Beavers return to Lancaster on Saturday, Sept. 10 for a doubleheader at the University of Antelope Valley (1-3).