LARAMIE, Wyo. -
The University of Wyoming volleyball team (7-1 overall) had its 14-match winning streak broken as it was defeated by the Gonzaga Bulldogs (6-1 overall) in five sets (22-25, 23-25, 25-23, 26-24, 9-15) to open up the UniWyo Wyoming Invite, on Friday night, in Laramie. The Cowgirls would fall behind 2-0 early in the match but came back to win sets three and four in order to force a fifth set with the Bulldogs.
Four of the Cowgirls six starters finished the night in double-figures kills led by sophomore Laura Beach. She recorded a career high 16 kills and six digs plus a .520 (16-3-25) hitting percentage. Erin Kirby recorded 13 kills and seven digs followed by Kayla Slofkiss and Bridget Shanahan with 12 each. Setter Courtney Chacon tied her career high with 53 assists and Lily Austin added 12 digs. Wyoming hit .265 (62-22-151) and added 11 total team blocks.
Gonzaga was led by Savannah Blinn, who finished with a staggering 32 kills and a .431 (32-7-58) hitting percentage. McKayla Ferris recorded 16 kills and setter Lauren Joseph added 58 kills and ten digs. The Bulldogs hit .282 (72-28-156) on the night and had 12.0 total team blocks.
"The fans have been fantastic," head coach Chad Callihan. "I hope they keep coming out and not let the performance tonight deter them because we didn't play well and Gonzaga took advantage of it. They out blocked us and played a solid match.
"Savannah Blinn was a player we knew could have some solid numbers. What we were hoping for was when she rotated to back row, we would be able to go on some runs and we weren't efficient at all tonight. I don't know if it was how we practiced this week or everyone talking about how good we were, but we didn't come prepared tonight. We did a good job of coming back and grinding away at the deficit. I like the never die attitude, just wish we could have sustained it."
Gonzaga jumped out early on the Cowgirls as they took a 7-1 lead to begin the match. After a timeout by Wyoming, a Laura Beach kill ended the Bulldog scoring stretch. A 6-3 run from Gonzaga would extend the lead back to eight, 13-5. The Cowgirls tried to close the gap and pulled to within four, 14-10. The Bulldogs built the advantage back to eight, 19-11. UW battled back and scored the next 8 of 11 to make it a three point set, 22-19. Gonzaga held on to take the first set, 25-22. Wyoming struggled hitting .152 (13-8-33) and got out blocked 6-2.
The teams traded scores early in the second set until four unanswered by Wyoming put them ahead 8-4. A service error by Slofkiss gave the Bulldogs their fifth point of the set, but UW continued to maintain a four to five point lead. With the score 17-12 in favor of the Cowgirls, Gonzaga battled back with a 9-4 to even up the score at 21 all. An attack error by Blinn gave the Cowgirls their next point, but the Bulldogs scored the final four of five to win the set 25-23 to take a 2-0 lead in the match.
The third set started out similar to the second as Wyoming took the early 8-4 advantage and maintained over the next several points. Gonzaga answered back with a 5-1 run to eve up the score at 12 all. The Cowgirls built the lead back to 15-13, but three unanswered gave the Bulldogs a one point lead, 16-15. UW tied it up on the next side out and the teams traded scores back and forth. With it all tied up at 19 all, the Cowgirls scored three of the next four to go up, 22-20, and would earn set point, 24-22. Gonzaga held off one, but the Cowgirls would win the set, 25-23.
The momentum shifted to the side of the Bulldogs as they took a 6-2 lead and extended it to 11-5 in the fourth set. The Cowgirls battled back and went on a 7-2 run to pull within one, 13-12. Gonzaga scored the next 8 of 10 to give them a seven -point advantage, 21-14. Wyoming fought all the way back closing out the set on a 12-3 run to win 26-24 and force a fifth and deciding set.
It was a struggle in the fifth set for Wyoming as they fell behind 8-4. The Cowgirls showed glimpses of making a comeback, but the deficit was too much to overcome. Gonzaga would take the set, 15-9, and the match 3-2.
Wyoming will close out the tournament tomorrow with two matches against the Weber State Wildcats and the Furman Paladins. The first match is set for 12:00 p.m. while the finale will be at 7:00 p.m.