Dec. 11, 2011
HONOLULU, Hawai'i - The #18 Pepperdine women's volleyball team put forth a heroic effort, and was a legitimate contender to advance to the Final Four, but the #1-ranked USC walked away with the 3-2 (25-16, 26-28, 19-25, 25-19, 15-10) win to put an end to the Waves' season. It was just the second time in program history Pepperdine had advanced to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament.
Kim Hill (Portland, Ore./Portland Christian HS) and Stevi Robinson (Hermosa Beach, Calif./Mira Costa HS) were voted to the Honolulu Regional All-Tournament team.
"It's hard to compare from year to year, but this is by far one of the best teams I've ever coached in my 29 years here," said head coach Nina Matthies in a press conference following the loss. "I've been surrounded by a lot of fantastic support this season. It's hard to put it into words, but I'm just so proud of the girls."
Senior Hill, who paced the Waves with a match-high 21 kills, echoed the sentiment.
"We've all been through a lot together," said Hill. "This season is beyond anything I could have imagined. It's rough losing like this, but hard not to be proud of what we've accomplished.
"I think we sort of put Pepperdine volleyball on the map, and have proven that we belong (in the NCAA regional final). This is a proud moment for Pepperdine as a whole."
The Waves (25-7) saw four hitters reach doubles digits in addition to Hill. Samantha Cash (San Diego, Calif./Canyon Crest Academy) set a career high with 17 kills. Lilla Frederick (Huntington Beach, Calif./Cornelia Connelly HS) and Victoria Adelhelm (Rancho Santa Fe, Calif./Santa Fe Christian HS) followed with 13 and 10 kills, respectively.
Defense was the real star of the match, as both teams eclipsed 100 digs. Robinson picked up 29 and Kellie Woolever (Long Beach, Calif./Woodrow Wilson HS) extended her career-best to 26 digs. Frederick added 21, while Michaela Christiaansen (Tucson, Ariz./Ironwood Ridge HS) did her part with 14.
Alex Jupiter, who tagged down 33 kills versus Hawaii on Friday night, led the Trojans (29-4) with 17 kills and 29 digs tonight. Jupiter was ultimately named the Tournament Most Outstanding Player. Libero Natalie Hagglund paced the floor with 32 digs.
Both teams had a hard time putting the ball away in set one, thanks to phenomenal defense on both sides of the net. The Trojans built a seven point lead, but the Waves fought back. Frederick put the exclamation point on a 6-2 run to bring the Waves within two and force USC to call a time out The break seemed to work for the Women of Troy, who scored three unanswered points out of the break and went on to take the opening frame 25-16.
Pepperdine founds its rhythm in set two, taking advantage of several free balls that Southern California sent over the net. Although the Waves led most of the set, USC would not go away quietly and tied the match up 21-all. After head coach Nina Matthies asked for a timeout, Hill tipped over a kill to put her team back on top.
The teams traded sideouts to send the set past the 25-point mark.
With USC up 26-25, Adelhelm was left wide open and the middle blocker took advantage with a kill. An attack error gave the Waves set point and a tandem block by Hill and Adelhelm knotted the score at one heading into the locker room.
Cash carried the offensive effort with seven kills on 11 swings. Woolever helped the defense with eight digs, while Robinson added seven in the frame.
The Waves score five of the first six points to open set three, led by two Cash kills and a Katie Messing-Cash block, and continued to roll from there. The Trojans were able to climb back and tie the score at 14, but with Robinson at the service line, Pepperdine reclaimed the momentum. A Cash kill, her fourth of the set, put the score at 24-19 and an attack error clinched the stanza for the Waves.
Adelhelm added four kills on six swings and Messing (The Woodlands, Texas/The Woodlands HS) posted three blocks.
The Trojans took the early lead in the fourth stanza, but Pepperdine remained diligent. Down 12-13, Cash tried to tip a shot but Hagglund came up with the pancake dig. Following a Frederick dig, Cash got a second chance to put the ball away and this time made good on her swing to knot the score at 13. USC answered with 3-1 run that would put the designated home team back on top for good.
The teams prepared to go a fifth after the Trojans put set four away, 25-19.
Although the Waves led in the early going, USC kept the attack errors to a minimum to control the offensive rhythm of the final set. Hannah Schraer nailed down the final kill to give her team the win and send them into the Final Four.
In addition to USC, the other Final Four teams include UCLA, Illinois and Florida State. The teams will converge inside the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas on Dec. 15-17 when a National Champion will be crowned.
Pepperdine returns to competition next spring, when they get the inaugural season of the sand volleyball underway.