In front of a packed house at the Alma Grace McDonough Center, the annual Atlantic Region volleyball battle between Wheeling Jesuit University and California University of Pennsylvania had fans on the edge of their seat as every set was decided by just a few points. The two regional giants went at each other with everything they had, but at the end of the battle, California (Pa.) walked away with a 3-1 win.
The No 14 ranked Cardinals (17-2) and the Vulcans went back-and-forth during the entire match. In the opening set, the two teams traded points until Cal scored back-to-back points to break a 13-13 tie. The Vulcans extended the lead to 17-14 before Jesuit made one last attempt to take the set. The Cardinals tied the set 21-21 on a triple block by Rachel Caja, Abby Wietrzykowski and Jenna Pew, but Meghan Franz quickly retaliated with a pair of kills for a 23-21 advantage. After a Jesuit timeout, Pew narrowed the margin to 23-22. When the ball was put back into motion, Cal's Franz delivered another kill and a WJU ball handling error ended the set in Cal's favor, 25-22.
Unlike the first set which featured 12 tied scores and eight lead changes, the Cardinals flew to a 4-0 advantage and maintained the lead the entire way. Pew set the tone by flooring the first two kills, and a pair of Cal errors gave the Cardinals some breathing room The Vulcans chipped away, cutting the lead in half, 6-4, when Pew delivered her third kill of the set and followed with an ace, taking the Cardinals back to four-point favorites, 8-4. Wietrzykowski floored the next three kills for the Cardinals, and Jesuit continued to hold a 14-11 advantage. Franz recorded the following point for Cal, but Jesuit would not relinquish the lead. At 22-19, Allissa Ware pounded out two of the last three points to tie the match at one set apiece, 25-20.
The final two sets mirrored the first. The third set featured five ties and two lead changes, while the fourth set showcased 13 tied scores and two lead changes. The Vulcans claimed both sets by scores of 25-21 and 25-23 which snapped the Cardinals' 12-game winning streak.
Pew and Ware led the Cardinals with 14 kills apiece, and Wietrzykowski followed with 13 kills. Pew added 18 assists while Madison Strall tallied a team-high 25 assists and added 11 digs. Makenzie Ripley anchored the defense with 24 digs, and Ware chipped in 11 digs.
The Cardinals will be back in action at the Alma Grace McDonough Center on Thursday, October 4 against Seton Hill University. The match is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m.