PASADENA — The Caltech University women's volleyball team's bid to open the season on a winning note came up a bit short Tuesday evening, as the host Beavers fell to Pacific Union, 23-25, 25-21, 25-10, 25-12 at the Braun Athletic Center.
"Even though we lost, I was really proud of the effort," Beavers second-year coach Jodi Lindsay said. "We played well, but we also played with some first-game jitters that won't be there next time."
The match's turning point appeared to take place in the second game.
Neither team took larger than a two-point advantage until the game was tied at 16 after a Pacific Union service error.
From the mistake, Pacific Union (1-2) reeled off four straight points, the last two points via aces from junior Brita Widmer, who led all players with four aces.
Just as Caltech was on the ropes, however, the Pioneers gave their opponent a second life with three consecutive errors for points.
The errors were followed by an ace from Beavers sophomore Ashley Lo that tied the match at 20 and led to a Pioneers' timeout.
With momentum on the Beavers' side, Pacific Union bounced back with kills from freshman outside hitter Jenna Glantz and junior middle blocker Calai Brown to go up two.
While the Pioneers committed an attacking error on their next possession, they rebounded with a pivotal spike from Glantz that sophomore middle blocker Rebekah Kitto dug out of play.
Glantz' kill was the first of three straight points for the 6-footer, who connected on an ace that bounced off the knuckles of Lo, Caltech's libero, which pushed Pacific Union to game-point at 24-21 and led to a timeout from Lindsay.
The stoppage did not help the Beavers' cause as Glantz secured the Pioneers' first winning game this season with an ace that died in front of a diving Lo.
"We made the drive down here from [Angwin, California] today, so we came out a little rusty," Pioneers assistant coach Cari Cordis said. "But after the first two games, we settled down."
Two contentious, back-and-forth games gave way to two dominant games from the Pioneers, who clinched their first match of the season with 25-10 and 25-11 wins in games three and four, respectively.
The Beavers (0-1) entered Tuesday's contest with two distinct disadvantages, as the action was their first of the season and the Pioneers' third.
The bigger blow, however, may have been not playing with 6-foot sophomore middle blocker Paige Logan, who is on an educational oceanographic cruise.
"We're not the same team without her. She's obviously one of our better players," Lindsay said. "I think we also played nervous without her."
Despite the absence, the Beavers played best in the first game.
The Beavers took a 22-19 lead after a kill from sophomore Rachel Hess only to surrender four straight points and the lead.
Suddenly trailing, 23-22, the Beavers tied on a rare backrow kill from Lo that was followed by a centerline violation from Pacific Union's Casey Miller.
At game-point, Caltech's Katie Ching iced the win with an ace that dropped in front of Glantz.
Overall, Miller finished with a match-high 16 kills, followed by nine kills from Brown and eight kills a piece from Glantz and Widmer.
Ching paced Caltech with seven kills, while senior Teri Juarez added six kills and 12 digs and senior Erin Hoops added 15 assists.