DAVIS, Calif. - Senior outside hitter Kendall Walbrecht pounded out a career-high 22 kills while sophomores Kelechi Ohiri and Malia Bolko contributed defensive totals of eight blocks and 24 digs, respectively, helping UC Davis top Cal State Fullerton in four sets, 25-20, 25-20, 26-28, 25-21, in Big West Conference women's volleyball action at the Pavilion Saturday afternoon.
The Aggies improve to 11-10 for the season and even their league mark to 4-4. The Titans slip to 6-16 overall and 1-7 in Big West play.
Walbrecht's 22 kills exceeded her previous best of 19, set at home against UC Riverside last season. She also committed just three attacking errors toward a .475 hitting average. Ohiri's eight blocks represents her most in conference this season. She added eight kills with just two errors for a .500 success rate. Bolko's 24 digs follows up the 23 she posted in Thursday's 3-1 win over UC Riverside.
"Malia was great defensively. Some of her digs could have been a little cleaner but she was making lots of plays and staying very active out there. It's nice having her play like that," said UC Davis head coach Dan Conners. "Offensively, Kendall was the go-to tonight. I wish we could have gone to her a little bit more than we did, but she was very effective, which was nice to see."
Cal State Fullerton rode its transfer tandem of Madeline Schneider and Shimen Fayad. The two sophomores combined for 34 of their team's 46 total kills, and accounted for 88 of the Titans' 144 total attempts. At the end of the second set, facing a 2-0 match deficit, Schneider and Fayad had a collective 16-1-35 line for a .429 average, while the rest of the CSF roster had seven kills and nine errors to that point.
UC Davis never trailed in either of the first two sets. Sophomore Emily Allen got the Aggies started with an ace and a tip for a 6-2 opening run. She hit 5-for-5 to start the match. Fayad battled the Titans back to a 22-19 deficit after her tool and block assist, but UC Davis finished with Ohiri's off-speed tip for the 25th point.
In the second, the Aggies again stormed to an early lead with freshman Lauren Matias scoring three kills in an 11-5 start. Schneider scored consecutive kills to bring the Titans to within a 16-14 margin, but never approached by closer than two. Walbrecht had four kills in eight errorless swings in the Set 2 win, propelling her team to a 2-0 match lead at the break.
"Even in the first two sets, we were never playing near our potential, making too many unforced errors and two many indecisive plays for my liking. We kept them in the match all night," said Conners. "That's something that didn't exist on Thursday night. We were much cleaner and much more aggressive. We were looking to make plays instead of waiting for a teammate to make plays."
CSF forged its first lead of the match during the third frame, with a Summer Kerins solo stuff setting the Titans to a 14-10 advantage. UC Davis whittled its way back when Matias and Ohiri combined for a block against Schneider - her first attacking error - at 15-15. Junior Aima Eichie scored back-to-back kills to put UC Davis up by a 22-19 lead, then Walbrecht did likewise with two kills to make it a 24-19 match point.
Cal State Fullerton fended off five straight match points to tie the set at 24-24. UC Davis suffered from six service errors in the third set alone, with one giving the Titans a 27-26 set point. An Aggie tip fell just wide of the line to complete CSF's set victory.
After surrendering nine of the final 11 points in the third, UC Davis continued to struggle into the fourth in falling into a 10-5 hole. Walbrecht served her team back to an 11-11 tie, then Matias later provided a kill and an ace to restore the Aggie lead to 15-13. UC Davis never trailed after that point. Matias added a second ace to make it five straight points and an 18-13 lead. Walbrecht put up three more kills in the final stretch to establish her new career best.
In all, the Aggies served up nine aces for their most since delivering 10 in five sets against CSUN. The 12 total blocks marked the highest team total since they went for 14 against Murray State in early September.
Saturday's win also saw the first home appearance for UC Davis reserve defensive specialist Katie Campbell, who doubled her previous career total with eight digs while adding an ace. The redshirt sophomore biotech major appeared in five matches last year and five matches in 2016, but had never entered a home match.
UC Davis returns to the road for more Big West play at CSUN (Friday) and Long Beach State (Saturday).