PASADENA (Oct, 28, 2017) – Caltech women's volleyball joined the varsity ranks for the 1989 season. Today the Beavers won their first SCIAC game since joining the conference 17 years ago when they salvaged a thrilling 3-2 victory against the University of Redlands.
The Beavers only reached the fifth set once this season when they dropped it to University of Antelope Valley in the team's second game of the season. Since then, the youthful Beavers have grown together, discovered their roles and through defeat found a way to rally together in the face of adversity and make history on Saturday afternoon.
"It's an amazing feeling," Head Coach Tom Gardner said. "It feels like we've got a monkey off our back. There was a lot of pressure we were putting on ourselves to accomplish that first win this year and it should make the next one that much easier."
Freshman Krystyna Maruszko (Redondo Beach, Calif. / Marymount) put on a statement showing in the Beavers' second-to-last home game of the season, finishing the match with 14 kills, 20 assists and 25 digs and came just four aces away from an ever-rare quadruple-double. Sophomore outside hitter Alexa Lauinger (Ortonville, Mich. / Brandon) also came through on the attack with 16 kills to go along with 20 digs.
The Beavers took a 2-0 lead in the match thanks to two solid sets, yet close sets where they maintained control despite the Bulldogs being too close for comfort. Kills from Lauinger, then fellow sophomore Lauren Li (Bellaire, Texas / Bellaire) served as exclamation points for the first two sets. Adversity began to set in when the Bulldogs ran away with the set by winning the final four points. Tension mounted further after the Bulldogs stole a marathon fourth set, 31-29, where timely kills from Li and freshman Isabell Yang (Arcadia, Calif. / Arcadia) provided Caltech with multiple opportunities to put the Bulldogs down.
Having been in similar territory once before, the Beavers made sure to play a smart fifth set void of costly mistakes. They beat the Bulldogs to five points and had their foes at 8-6 on the switchover before pulling away with seven of the match's final 10 points.
"We've had all season to learn the playing habits of each other and for our players to trust their teammates in what they're supposed to do," Gardner said. "We've had our ups and down and have had time where we've doubted what we're capable of but the good habits we've been working on in practice finally showed themselves in full form in the fifth set."
Ultimately, the Beavers and Bulldogs proved to be two evenly matched teams. Caltech won its first SCIAC set since 2012 against the Bulldogs when they traveled to Redlands last month and the set that came in 2012 was won against the same team.
The growth Caltech volleyball has seen is evident in another strong freshman class that in addition to Maruszko and Yang also features middle blocker Christine Yu (Fremont, Calif. / Mission San Jose) and libero Allessandra Mondello (Kinnelon, N.J. / Villa Walsh Acad.). Saturday's victory should be a sign of things to come so long as Gardner's group continues to grow together and make strides as a unit in the coming years.
"I said to the team that this is a new chapter," Gardner said. "We turned the corner and we still have a long way to go before we're a winning team but we're no longer a team that everybody just rolls over. We can compete and give ourselves a chance on any given night. We're only graduating two seniors so it's reasonable to believe one win will lead to more."
Gardner and the Beavers will finish off the 2017 season when they travel to West Coast Baptist College for a Halloween clash.