In their second time facing St. Mary’s Gaels, the Portland Pilots lost in five sets. The Pilots are coming off of two wins last week in the Bay Area against Santa Clara and University of San Francisco.
“St Mary’s is a really good volleyball team,” head coach Jeff Baxter said. “We were expecting a battle tonight, which it was.”
The Pilots came out strong in the first set with the first two kills by senior outside hitter, Reghan Pukis.The team went on a five-point run backed by the strong serves of junior setter Cali Thompson.
The Gaels were quick to bridge the gap, and for the first time in the set secured a lead. After the Gaels reached 10 points, both teams fought point-by-point with neither team securing leads larger than two points.
There were great rallies of scrappy defense and emergency plays from both sides of the net. Senior middle Katie Barker had solid blocks, which were critical for the longer rallies.
The Pilots pushed for critical points, with pressure from the Gaels’ offense, and won the set, 25-22 with another kill from Pukis.
“I thought we executed fine at moments,” Baxter said. “We had our moments, it just wasn’t consistent enough.”
Portland came into the second set leading in both kills and digs. The team started slow, letting the Gaels get a lead off of Pilot hitting errors.
Portland caught up to the Gaels and both teams had to fight to keep the upper hand in the set. The Gaels got the lead by forcing Pilot errors and held on to it, always keeping at least three points ahead of Portland.
Thompson showed incredible hustle on shanked passes and the team overall excelled at successful emergency plays. Portland covered their hitters well and saved balls that were blocked by the Gaels. The Pilots pulled through and beat the Gaels, 27-25, the Pilots leading overall in kills.
In the third set, the Pilots were the first to establish a lead. They came out hard and their strong blocks were crucial.
St. Mary’s gained a strong lead off of Portland’s hitting errors and missed passes. The Pilots’ blocks managed to score a few more points before losing to the Gaels, 17-25.
The fourth set started slow for the home team and both teams fought point-by-point with no big leads. The Gaels were the first to 10 points, and secured the first lead of the set.
This fourth set was a set of errors for the Pilots: the team continued to fall to their hitting and passing errors, and the Gaels widened their lead by 10 points.
Although the team narrowed the gap and won some critical rallies, they lost to the Gaels, 16-25.
“When you’re playing good volleyball teams, you need to maintain and we weren’t doing that,” Baxter said. “We have to execute at a high level to beat high level teams.”
In the fifth set, the Gaels won the first 5-0 lead with aggressive swings in tricky places. The Pilots scrambled for points to close the lead with solid hits. Portland’s hits were matched by St. Mary’s blocks and digs, and the Pilots fell 10-15.
The Pilots take on Pacific University Tigers in their next match on Saturday, Nov. 10 at noon in the Chiles Center.