Undefeated

Submitted by: Ron Smith - November 5th, 2016

 

Amy Buffham

Amy Buffham
Photo by Brad Elliott

For the first time in school history, Westmont Athletics has a team that has gone undefeated in the regular season. With a three-game sweep (25-18, 25-17, 25-12) of Hope International (11-14, 5-9 GSAC) in the final Golden State Athletic Conference game of the year, #1 Westmont Volleyball has completed the regular season with a perfect record of 31-0 overall and 16-0 in conference play.

“I told the team before this game to appreciate the moment,” said head coach Patti Cook, “and to realize that we have been making history and we are about to make history one more time tonight by sweeping the GSAC. I told them to look around and appreciate their teammates and know that we have something very special going on here.”

An outstanding accomplishment by any accounting, the feat is made more remarkable when one considers that the Warriors played just eight matches on their home court in Murchison Gymnasium. Westmont was 13-0 when playing on their opponents’ courts this season and 10-0 in matches played at neutral sites.

In 16 conference matches, the Warriors lost just one set, giving them a set record of 48-1 (.980) in GSAC play. That mark is the best in GSAC history since the first year of the conference in 1986 when Fresno Pacific claimed the conference crown with a 5-0 record by sweeping all five of its matches for a 15-0 set record.

“We have used a theme of staying humble and hungry,” said Cook about helping the team keep perspective. “We have come into games being our own best cheerleaders. We cheer each other on and play for each other. The teams overall attitude and chemistry is fantastic. They really enjoy being around each other and that shows on the court when we play next to each other. It has been very fun and very rewarding to watch.”

The total of 31 wins also matches the most wins in program history. The 1993 squad, which finished third and the NAIA National Tournament, ended the regular season with a mark of 23-8 and then went 8-2 in postseason play to establish the all-time wins record which went unchallenged until this season.

“I have been incredibly blessed by these ladies and by this season,” offered Cook. “I feel personally blessed to be a part of this program and a part of making history.”

Tonight’s game showcased Westmont’s balanced attack. Sophomore Libby Dahlberg led the Warriors offense with 10 kills and a .471 attack percentage. Freshman right side hitter Cassidy Rea added eight more kills while hitting an impressive .615. Sam Neely, Sarah McGough and Jessica McCann each contributed seven kills to the Warrior cause.

The Warriors never trailed in the opening frame. With the score tied at four, three kills by Dahlberg and another by McCann gave Westmont an 8-4 advantage. Hope battle back to pull within two points at 15-13, but the Warriors put together another four-point run on the strength of two kills by Rea and one by Beckman to go up 19-13.

A 7-3 run by Hope International in the second set led to a 9-7 advantage for the Royals. However, Westmont answered back with nine straight points. Middle blocker Mila Maricic delivered three kills in a row for the Warriors to start the run that saw libero Kami Troesh serve for eight points. The Royals would get no closer than five points the rest of the set.

Similarly, in the third set Hope held a 6-4 lead when the Warrior erupted with a 7-0 run. This time, McGough was at the service line for the Warriors. Westmont then closed out the set, the match and the regular season with a 14-6 run.

“Our number one goal has always been to win GSAC,” declared Cook. “Our number two goal is to become national champions.”

Postseason play will not begin for the Warriors until Tuesday, November 29. The NAIA National Tournament Opening Rounds are to be held on Saturday, November 19, but the Warriors are expected to be named the number one seed in the tournament field of 44 teams and receive an opening round bye.

After a 24-day lay-off, the Warriors will take the court again for three-days of pool play in Sioux City, Iowa.
Pool play consists of 32 teams divided into eight pools of four teams each. Each team will play the others in their pool once. At the end of pool play, the two teams from each pool with the best records will advance to a 16-team, single elimination bracket which will be conducted over a two-day period. Assignment to pool play will not be announced until after the opening round matches take place.

“This next period is going to be really important for postseason prep work,” said Cook about the three and one half weeks before nationals begin. “I’ve told the team it’s not going to be easy, we are definitely not letting off the gas. If anything, we are slamming the gas pedal to the floor. We want to see how high we can go, what we can do, how far we can go. In order to do that we have to work hard, stay focused and keep our eyes on improving day in and day out.”

Spoken like an undefeated coach.

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