LAS VEGAS - Sophomore outside hitter Lauren Matias totaled 21 kills and eight blocks, while junior middle blocker Lauren Jackson notched seven stuffs in each end of Friday's doubleheader, helping UC Davis post a pair of 3-1 wins on the first day of the UNLV Invitational women's volleyball tournament at Cox Pavilion Friday. The Aggies opened with a 22-25, 25-20, 25-14, 25-11 win over Eastern Washington, then scored a 25-20, 25-21, 23-25, 25-21 victory against the host Rebels.
UC Davis opens the season at 2-0. Eastern Washington split its Friday matches to move to 1-1. UNLV, a 2016 NCAA tournament second-round qualifier, also went 1-1 on its opening day of action.
Overall, the Aggies enjoyed favorable margins in five major categories: kills (102-92), hitting (.229), aces (16-7), digs (118-104) and blocks (23.5-15.0). Matias had 15 kills in the nightcap win against UNLV, while junior Emily Allen and freshman Mahalia White also broke double digits in offense with 11 and 10 kills, respectively. Another junior, Brianna Karsseboom, was UC Davis' leading hitter with 10 kills against EWU, then narrowly missed a double-double with eight kills and a team-best 16 digs in the nightcap against the Rebels.
"It felt great. As a coach, you're always concerned about how your team will respond to adversity and challenges," said head coach Dan Conners. "When they took a set off us, we stayed calm and kept a good, positive attitude. Sure, we missed a play or two, but overall, our defense was great. Eastern Washington hit just .042 and UNLV was only .182 against us."
UC Davis concludes its first weekend of the 2017 season with an 11:30 a.m. match against Binghampton on Saturday.
UC DAVIS 3, EASTERN WASHINGTON 1
In Friday's early match, UC Davis overcame a slow start and a first-set loss to storm to three straight wins - including scores of 25-14 and 25-11 in the final two - to beat Eastern Washington for the 2017 season opener. Allen hit nine kills with a .276 average, Jackson posted a team-best seven blocks, and junior libero Malia Bolko picked up 20 digs to lead the Aggies defensively.
Matias added 6-for-11 hitting with four more blocks, while Karsseboom recorded a team-leading 10 kills for the match. The Aggies struggled to just .057 hitting in the first set, before improving to .278, .321 and .381 success rates in the second through fourth frames.
After suffering nine hitting errors in the opener, UC Davis settled down to just seven such miscues the rest of the way. Karsseboom and Allen each had three kills and junior middle blocker Kelechi Ohiri totaled three stuffs in the second set. Allen also served up an ace as part of a 4-0 run that snapped a late 17-17 tie and put the Aggies into a stronger 21-17 edge. Karsseboom's kill set up a 24-19 game point, then Ohiri converted the side out to finalize the set at 25-20.
UC Davis never trailed in each of the third and fourth stanzas. Matias had two kills in a 5-0 start to the third, helping her finish with a 4-0-5 chart in that set. The Aggies also served aggressively, with Bolko and setters Paloma Bowman and Maddie Merlino each scoring aces. That 5-0 lead grew to 14-4 on back-to-back EWU service aces, and UC Davis held at least a seven-point margin down the stretch.
Allen hit a perfect 4-for-4 with five digs in the third set, Jackson totaled four blocks and two aces, while Matias scored two more stuffs in the fourth-set win. UC Davis' five team blocks stifled the Eagles to minus-.143 hitting and just five kills.
UC DAVIS 3, UNLV 1
Matias tallied 15 kills on 38 swings, White hit 10-3-16 for a .438 average, and Jackson matched her total of seven blocks in Friday's nightcap win, helping UC Davis ride an early 2-0 match lead en route to the four-set victory. Karsseboom's 16 digs led the Aggie floor defense, with Merlino and Bolko chipping in another 14 each.
UC Davis overcame what began as an 11-6 start for UNLV in the first set, largely due to a run of nine unanswered in support of the serving of Allen and redshirt freshman defensive specialist Ally Reyes. Matias and Jackson combined for back-to-back blocks, Allen had two aces, and Matias scored three of her five first-set kills during that run. Ohiri provided two more kills down the closing stretch before Allen put down the game-winner.
The Aggies led wire-to-wire in the second set, again enjoying a strong run with Allen at the service line. Matias and Jackson combined for a block at 15-11, then the two Laurens and Karsseboom teamed up on a rare triple block on the next point. Overall, UC Davis went from a close 13-11 margin to an 18-11 advantage. UNLV fought off three straight set points before committing a final attacking error, putting UC Davis to a 2-0 lead at the break.
The Rebels regrouped with 16 kills to claim the third set, although the Aggies did threaten to finish a sweep. UNLV's 19-16 lead soon turned into a 22-20 edge, thanks to a Jackson ace and two kills from Ohiri. However, Ashley Owens righted her team's ship with a kill and a block, helping UNLV take the two-point victory in the set. The Rebels continued its momentum in the fourth, even holding a 17-15 lead and a chance to force a fifth. But UC Davis flipped that script with a 9-2 run. Allen scored back-to-back kills on a tool and a joust of a free ball, boosting the Aggies to an 18-17 lead. Bolko served up an ace while Matias and White notched kills in that run, resulting in a 24-19 match point. Matias shut the door with her offspeed kill for the 25th.
UC Davis ranked sixth among public schools by the Wall Street Journal and 10th among that peer group by U.S. News & World Report, while appearing on Sierra magazine's list of top 10 "Cool Schools" in 2016. Its student-athletes are enrolled in 93 of the 104 undergraduate majors offered by the university.