Dec. 11, 2019
Biola played outstanding defense and pulled off its second-straight win over an NAIA Top 10 team, defeating No. 1 Texas-Brownsville 25-21, 27-25, 24-26, 25-11 in a non-conference match on Thursday night in front of a boisterous crowd of 721 at Chase Gymnasium.
The Eagles improve to 20-10 with the victory, their first over a No. 1-ranked team since defeated then-No. 1 Fresno Pacific almost exactly four years ago on Oct. 31, 2007. The Scorpions suffer their first loss of the season, falling to 22-1 overall.
Texas-Brownsville came into the match as the NAIA's third-best hitting team and top team in aces. However, Biola's defense was up to the task and shutdown the high-powered Scorpions with an impressive display. The Eagles had 76 digs and held UTB to a .143 attack percentage, well off their season average of .315. Biola also allowed four service aces while recording seven. Five of those came from sophomore Nicolette Douglas, who had a team-high 22 assists and five digs.
Biola received a solid contribution from junior outside hitter Christine Douglas, who had 16 kills, four blocks and three digs on the night. Senior outside Sarah McAtee added 12 kills, two blocks and two digs.
The Eagles came out with a strong showing in the first set, opening up the match with a 9-4 run with two of the nine points coming off the block. The Scorpions responded with a five point run to tie the match at 9-9. A few points later, Biola broke an 11-11 tie with a six-point run to go up 17-11. But again Texas-Brownsville fought back and eventually pulled to within one point at 21-20.
After exchanging points, Biola received a huge solo block by junior Rachel Buckley on what looked to be an easy overpass slam by the Scorpions Vnaja Joksic, giving the Eagles a 23-21 advantage. Back-to-back unforced attack errors by Texas-Brownsville would give Biola the first set, 25-21. It was the first set the Scorpions had lost in over a month after having dropped just eight sets through 22 previous matches on the season.
Down 15-13 midway through the second set, Biola rattled off five-straight points including back-to-back aces by Nicolette Douglas to take an 18-15 lead. After exchanging points, the Scorpions rallied with an 8-3 run, setting up set point at 24-22. Biola fought off two straight points with kills by Amy Weststeyn and an attack error by UTB, then took the lead on a monster kill by Christine Douglas. After trading points, Biola took the set on a big block by Buckley and Christine Douglas, to win 27-25.
The Eagles looked like they would cruise to an easy sweep, opening up with an 11-7 lead in the third set. However, the Scorpions slowly chipped away. Down 14-12, UTB went on a 6-1 run to take an 18-15 lead. Biola answered back with four-straight and the see-saw battle began again. With the score knotted at 22-22, Ana Guerra recorded a kill and then assisted on a block to give the Scorpions a similar 24-22 lead. Biola again fought back to tie it with a kill by Nicolette Mather and an impressive solo block by Weststeyn. But Guerra would record kills on the next two plays as UTB salvaged the third set, 26-24.
Biola put the match away with an impressive fourth set. The Eagles opened with a 6-1 run and still led by five at 14-9 a bit later when they started to pull away. Biola would close out the match on an 11-2 run which featured three-straight kills by Christine Douglas and a match-point ace by Nicolette Douglas to wrap it all up.
Sophomore setter Gracee Gallarda led the impressive defense with 19 digs and added 20 assists for the Eagles. Senior Joy Talcott added 15 digs--including a pair of fantastic one-armed efforts--and had two kills and an ace.
Guerra led the Scorpions with a match-high 18 kills and eight blocks with Danica Markovic adding 10 kills and 19 digs.
Biola lost its two previous meetings against Texas-Brownsville, both of which came during the 2010 season. The Eagles lost in four in La Mirada during the regular season, then suffered a sweep in the quarterfinals of the NAIA National Tournament.
The Biola victory came at the end of a tough stretch of matches against three teams in the NAIA Top 10. Biola dropped a five-set decision at No. 2 Concordia on Saturday, then defeated No. 7 Azusa Pacific in five on Tuesday. The Eagles still have a pair of matches against ranked teams, traveling to No. 17 Point Loma Nazarene on Tuesday and up north to face No. 8 Fresno Pacific on Tuesday, Nov. 8.
The Eagles close out the busy week on Saturday with a GSAC match against Westmont College on Saturday at 1:00 p.m. in Chase Gymnasium.
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