Pepperdine Waves women’s indoor volleyball head coach Scott Wong did not have a ton of advice to give to his squad after they dropped the second set of their home matchup against the Santa Clara Broncos on Sept. 28.
The fifth-season head coach told the Waves to play tougher.
“Santa Clara did a real nice job of serving and going after us real tough,” Wong said. “I just told them we have to compete. We have to serve tough. We have to buckle our helmets on and get right in the thick of things a play tough.”
Sophomore outside hitter Rachel Ahrens said Wong told the team to also communicate better.
“As a team, you have to all be on the same page,” she said.
Whatever the Waves coach said worked, because the group responded with a bevy of aces, blocks and powerful kills over and between defenders en route to their 3-1 victory over the Broncos at Firestone Fieldhouse. After losing the second set, 25-23, the Waves won the third set, 25-21, and the fourth set, 25-19. Pepperdine won the contest’s opening set, 25-20.
Wong loved his squad’s determination.
“We played really well at times, and other times—to Santa Clara’s credit—they were playing some good volleyball,” he said. “We were tough, and we gritted it out during some uncomfortable times. I think you need to do that as a good team.”
Senior outside hitter Hannah Frohling led the Pepperdine with 19 kills and 10 digs, her 19th career double-double. Ahrens recorded 14 kills, senior middle blocker Tarah Wylie had five blocks and three aces, and junior outside hitter Shannon Scully posted eight kills, 13 digs and one ace.
Wong said Frohling, who suffered an injury earlier in the season, hit the ball well, and Ahrens had good game offensively. He said freshman setter Isabel Zelaya exceled at distributing the ball.
“Our team offense is getting better and better,” he said.
Overall, the Waves had 58 kills on 147 swings, 65 digs, seven aces and averaged six blocks per set.
The victory improved Pepperdine’s overall record to 6-7 and 2-0 in the West Coast Conference heading into their game at San Diego on Tuesday. The Waves host Portland on Thursday at 7 p.m. and host Gonzaga on Saturday. Both contests are WCC matchups.
Pepperdine jumped out to a 9-4 lead in the first set against Santa Clara. After the Broncos closed the gap, Scully’s powerful kill over two defenders gave the Waves an 11-7 lead. Scully’s team gained a 16-12 lead after the Broncos served the ball out of bounds, and then had a 19-15 lead after a point by Ahrens. Scully’s ace put Pepperdine up, 22-15. Frohling scored the set’s winning point.
Early in the second set, Waves senior libero Hana Lishman’s ace was Pepperdine’s second point, but the Bronco’s fast start had them up by three points. The Broncos held leads of 8-3, 10-6, and 14-11 before a point by Frohling tied the match at 15. An ace by Waves sophomore Madison Shields put Pepperdine up, 18-17, but moments later Santa Clara took the lead again before the contest was tied again. The visiting ended up winning the match by two points.
Wylie’s ace gave Pepperdine a 6-5 lead in the third set. The teams exchanged the lead for a few minutes until a point by Wylie gave Pepperdine a two-point lead. She recorded an ace, and her team soon led, 20-16. Another Wylie point gave Pepperdine a 23-19 lead. A violation by Santa Clara gave Pepperdine a four-point win.
A kill by Scully gave the Waves an 11-8 lead in the fourth set, and later a whack of the ball by Ahrens put their team up by seven. Pepperdine then had leads of 17-9, 19-10, 21-15 and 23-19 before a point by Scully won the final match.
The Waves began the season with losses in the North Texas Challenge to Tulsa and North Texas. Pepperdine closed out the event with a win over Illinois State. The Waves defeated California Baptist and Fairfield in the Pepperdine Tournament before losing to Texas A&M.
In the Pepperdine Asics Classic, the host team lost to Utah, Cal Poly and Pittsburg. Pepperdine then won two of its next three games before beating Santa Clara. The victories were over UC Irvine and San Francisco. UC Santa Barbara defeated the Waves.
Wong said Pepperdine has played well this season but can get better.
“We have grown a ton and are playing some really good volleyball,” he said. “Now, it’s just learning when to make the plays and how to make the right plays in critical times.”
The Waves’ 2018 campaign ended in the NCAA Championships. The squad defeated Northern Iowa in the first round but was defeated by highly ranked Wisconsin in the second round.
Wong said the Waves want to win the WCC crown this season.
“That is a big goal of ours,” he said. “We have high standards, and we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to do that. We have a ton of talent and potential.”
Ahrens said time, effort, and practice are the team’s keys to reaching their goals.
“A team is never perfect, so we just have to work as hard as we can,” she said.