Fresno Pacific has won four consecutive national championships in a row but the Lady Mustang volleyball team took the visiting Sunbirds down to the wire on Tuesday night in Bross Gym before falling in five games.
With the loss the Mustangs fall to 15-5 (3-2) while the Sunbirds improve their record to 8-3 (5-0). Coach Blanken's team competed with the defending national champions the entire night and showed why it is one of the most improved teams in the conference.
Despite the loss, Coach Blanken was more than pleased with the improvement his team has displayed, saying, "I see where we were before this year, where we are now, and where we are going, and I only have good things to say."
In the first set of five, FPU got out to an early lead only to be caught by 5-1 TMC run that tied the set. After that, the Sunbirds controlled the set and went on to win 25-21.
Set two was all Master's. The Mustangs sprinted to an 8-2 lead. Ashley Newton had two monster kills and Rachel Taylor added one of her own to stretch the Mustangs lead to 15-7. Coach Blanken's squad finished off the second set in dominating fashion to win 25-15.
The third set was akin to a heavyweight fight with each team trading blows. Master's was ahead most of the set but never with a substantial lead. The Sunbirds knotted the set up at 18, and then the battle was on. The two teams went blow for blow, trading points all the way to a 29-29 tie. Four times Fresno Pacific was playing at game point, but each time the Lady Mustangs responded. Finally, TMC rallied for a quick two-point spurt that gave them a 31-29 win and a two games to one lead for the match.
Fresno got out to a 9-4 lead early on in the fourth set. The Mustangs strung together a small run capped by kills from Victoria Callihan and Taylor to cut the lead to 11-9. Master's would not get any closer however as the Sunbirds controlled the rest of the set and went on to win 25-17.
Fresno State showed why they are the nations No. 6 team in the final stanza. After staying close at the beginning of the set, the Mustangs appeared to tire after taking FPU to the brink, and ended up falling 15-7.
The Mustangs challenged the Sunbirds all night but came up just short. When asked about the deciding factor of the match, Coach Blanken said, "We faced a team that's won four national championships in a row. They've been there, and they were ready."
TMC will travel to No. 10 Point Loma Nazarene on Saturday, October 1st to play at 7:00 pm.