San Diego 3, Arizona 2

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SAN DIEGO -- San Diego defeated Arizona in a thrilling five-game match at USD's Jenny Craig Pavilion Saturday night to advance into the NCAA Volleyball Tournament's Sweet 16 for the first time in school history. After winning games one and two, host San Diego (24-4) rallied from a three-point deficit in game five to hold off Arizona (19-11) by game scores of (30-28, 30-28, 25-30, 27-30, 15-13). 9th-seeded San Diego (24-4) moves on to play 8th-seeded USC (21-5) at the NCAA Regionals in Louisville, Kentucky, Friday and Saturday, Dec. 10-11.

San Diego, who finished its West Coast Conference schedule unbeaten (14-0), swept its opening round tournament match with Sun Belt Champion New Mexico State Friday and will bring an 18-match winning streak to Louisville after knocking off Arizona on Saturday.

"I think it is a milestone for our program," commented WCC Coach of the Year Jennifer Petrie. "This group has finally broken through... into the Sweet 16. We don't want to stop and we want to see the season continue. We made it a close one tonight and we anticipate another couple of tough matches on the road. We're excited and anxious to continue on."

Lindsey Sherburne (Saratoga, CA/Saratoga HS) came up with crucial points in game five to allow USD to defeat Arizona Saturday

First Team All-WCC setter Lindsey Sherburne provided Petrie and the Toreros with crucial points in game five to allow USD the opportunity to advance into the Regionals. A pair of dumps by Sherburne in the waning moments proved to be the difference in a game five that saw Arizona hold leads of 10-7 and 11-10.

"The heart and soul of that team was the setter [Lindsey Sherburne]," said fifth-year Arizona head coach David Rubio. "She runs that team and at the end of the match, she made plays for them. She made the dump two times.... and put the match away."

The opening frame began with neither team able to gain a sizeable advantage. With the score tied at 6-6, the Wildcats made their move and were able to take the lead on back-to-back San Diego errors. Arizona capitalized on a series of Torero hitting errors, eventually stretching out their lead to five points at 15-10 after an attack error made by USD attacker Kristen Carlson. However a raucous home crowd would inspire the Toreros to make a run and they chipped away at the Wildcat advantage, thanks to the powerful hitting of middle blocker Emily Haas, who finished with 8 of her team-high 19 kills in game one. A slide attack by Haas tied the game at 19. As the game continued to develop, neither squad was able to gain more than a two-point lead. Back-to-back Arizona attacking errors eventually gave the home team the slim 30-28 win in Game One.

Despite losing a big lead in Game One, Arizona came out firing in Game Two, as the visitors bolted to a 9-3 lead. The Toreros would battle back valiantly behind the offensive efforts of Carlson, who killed a season-high 23 balls Friday vs. New Mexico State. Four kills by the sophomore transfer fueled another San Diego comeback as USD pulled even at 18-18. Classmate Christie Dawson, who had 11 kills and five blocks Saturday, gave USD a 27-24 lead before the Wildcats quickly closed the gap to 29-28. Torero opposite Kristen Hurst put the finishing touches on Game Two, putting down the final point allowing USD a 30-28 Game Two win.

After the 10-minute intermission, San Diego and Arizona traded points at 13-13. In turn, the Cats made a run that the Toreros would be unable to overcome. The Arizona block came alive, shutting down the San Diego offense. After three quick Wildcat blocks, the Toreros found themselves behind 16-22. Although an Arizona attacking error brought the Toreros within three at 28-25, consecutive hitting errors by Haas would give Arizona the vital 30-25 victory.

Strong defense and another heroic comeback by San Diego would highlight Game Four, but ultimately, the Wildcats built an insurmountable lead that the Toreros would not be able to overcome. The Wildcats built an early 8-2 lead. Blocking and back-row play by Arizona would continue to frustrate San Diego. USD found themselves trialing 20-9. San Diego's floor defense picked it up and behind the senior leadership of Forster and Hurst, the Toreros were able to pull within two at 28-26. Arizona held on to win Game Four 30-27 setting up a winner-take-all game five.

Arizona continued its momentum gained in Games Three and Four, opening up Game Five by taking an early 5-2 lead. However, the Toreros responded in kind, as three kills by Forster brought her team within one at 6-5. Stellar play by Wildcat attacker's Kim Glass and Jennifer Abernathy allowed the Cats to regain a three-point advantage 10-7. San Diego would go on a mini-run of their own, as a kill each by Carlson and Hurst and a Wildcat error tied the game up at 10-10. The two teams would trade points back and forth until Sherburne took matters into her own hands. The junior dumped the ball into an open court to give the Toreros match point 14-13. An attack hit long by an Arizona hitter would give San Diego the game, 15-13.

-- Courtesy Roland Hu, USD