PASADENA, Calif. (Sept. 5, 2017) – Caltech volleyball won its season opener for the first time since 2004, sweeping West Coast Baptist College, 3-0, on Tuesday night.
Head Coach Tom Gardner's squad drastically improved on its numbers in last year's opener, specifically recording a .198 hitting percentage vs. a mere .054 in the 3-1 defeat last Sept. 6. A trio of Beavers scored in double figures, with sophomore Alex Lauinger (Ortonville, Mich. / Brandon) narrowly missing a double-double on 12 digs and nine kills. Freshman Krystyna Maruszko (Redondo Beach, Calif. / Marymount) posted a fantastic line of nine assists, eight digs and eight kills on a team-best .375 hitting percentage while sophomore Lauren Li (Bellaire, Texas / Bellaire) added another nine kills.
Caltech stated its intent early, quickly building a 17-7 lead before rattling off seven straight points as sophomore Ellie Walker (Minneapolis, Minn. / Blake School) served for the second time in the set after winning the match's first three points. Following a block by WCBC, Walker set up Maruszko for the clinching kill.
The Eagles knocked the Beavers back on their heels with the first five points of the second set, but Caltech steadily clawed back in and surged ahead on another seven-point run with Lauinger serving. The foes traded points until Caltech regained serve on a Lauinger kill and sealed the 2-0 match lead at 25-14.
Both teams fought vigorously trying to gain the upper hand in the third set, but it was on Lauinger's serve once again that Caltech took control with a third seven-point run to go ahead 13-7. WCBC threatened to pull back into the mix with a three-point run that made it 13-10, but the Beavers regained composure to score eight of the next nine points. Still, the Eagles were not quite out of it yet, serving up a pair of aces while notching five consecutive points. The Beavers settled back in, however, to pull out the elusive victory with the 25-19 win.
Walker led the squad with 16 assists and three aces, while rookie libero Allessandra Mondello (Kinnelon, N.J. / Villa Walsh Acad.) cracked double-digits in digs (10) and classmate Christine Yu (Fremont, Calif. / Mission San Jose) notched four kills against only one error. Sophomore Helena Shield (Mercer Island, Wash. / Mercer Island) made her long-awaited debut after missing her rookie year due to injury and smacked two kills with a solo block.
Gardner and the Beavers next head to the University of Antelope Valley for a doubleheader on Saturday, Sept. 9.