Mustangs Bend but Don't Break

October 27, 2012
Box Score

SANTA CLARITA, Calif. -  The Lady Mustangs showed their resolve as they defeated No. 21 Vanguard University Saturday night in three sets (25-22, 25-20, 25-21), improving their record to 22-4 overall and 7-3 in Golden State Athletic Conference play.

In a week where TMC eclipsed their win total from last season, The Mustangs kept on rolling as they entered a stretch of their schedule where four of their next five opponents are ranked nationally in the NAIA’s Top 25.  Vanguard, which began the season ranked #10 in the NAIA, fell out of the poll back on Sept. 4th, but returned to the national scene last Tuesday after a seven week absence.

In a surprisingly laid-back Bross Gymnasium with an atypical late arriving crowd, junior Sam Dougherty (Madera, CA) led the NAIA’s #8 team with 13 kills and 10 digs. Aubrey Bekendam (Orland, CA) had six kills, 18 assists, and 8 digs. Libero Rebecca Peluffo (La Crescenta, CA) had 13 digs for the Mustangs. Collectively, the Mustangs had 39 kills, 37 assists, seven serving aces, and 49 digs.

Set one was entertaining as the Lions and Mustangs were tied 12 times, the last of which was at 21-all. Master’s completed the set by winning four of the next five points on two service aces from Sam Dougherty, and a kill from Aubrey Bekendam, with the final swing coming from senior Rachel Taylor (Sun Valley, CA) to close out the set at 25-22.

The beginning of set two was reminiscent of the first set, as the Mustangs trailed by three points early on.  With senior Jenna Kapuscinski (Sylmar, CA) serving, the home team ran off five straight points to take an 8-5 lead, a lead that they would not relinquish, save one tie, for the rest of the second stanza. TMC held a strong defense, while rescuing a few points with improbable digs to keep rallies alive en route to a final score of 25-20.

Heading into the third set, the Mustangs hit a rough patch, and at one point trailed by eight points (18-10). “We got down pretty far in game three, and I’m just so proud of the girls, they stuck with it. They fought hard,” said head coach Bobby Blanken.

Once again with Jenna Kapuscinski serving, The Mustangs ran off six consecutive points to close the gap to 19-17.  The Lions and Mustangs would trade points with Vanguard maintaining a 21-19 advantage.  A 6-0 run to finish the set was jump started when Sam Dougherty single-handedly awakened the home crowd with a thunderous kill which seemingly rattled the visiting Lions, who committed errors on the final four points to give the Mustangs the third and final set at 25-21.

“I am really proud of all of our team tonight, we have been training really hard in situations like we saw tonight where we are coming from behind, I thought the girls showed great poise…just a humble confidence and a diligence to know and make sure the match isn’t over until the last whistle is blown,” said Blanken.

The Mustangs season isn’t over yet. “I am looking forward to the next few games.  They won’t be easy.  It definitely gets harder from here. But tonight was a good spring board in that direction. Every day we are preparing. We are just bringing up the intensity in practice, making things a little more difficult for the starters every day.  They can expect to see that when they come in, and they are responding well,” said Blanken.

The Mustangs will hit the road this Tuesday, October 30th when they travel to Santa Barbara for another top 25 showdown against No. 12 Westmont College in a 7:00 pm first serve.