Dec. 5, 2009

* Courtesy Saint Mary's Athletics

Palo Alto, CA - The string of good fortune in five set matches continued Friday night for Saint Mary's at Maples Pavilion. The Gaels overcame a slow start, due to nerves, and played some of their best volleyball of the season in a thrilling five set victory of UC Santa Barbara (22-8) (24-16, 22-25, 25-20, 25-14 and 15-13). With the win SMC improves to 23-4 on the season and has won its first post season match since the 2004 season when the Gaels advanced to the Sweet-16.

"We are obviously excited about this win. UCSB is a great team, well coached with a proud volleyball history and they certainly came to play tonight. Sometimes our girls makes it harder on themselves than they need to. Last year we laid an egg in the 1st round of the tournament and tonight we were headed in that direction again, but the fact that we were down 0-2, not playing well, then turn in completely around speaks volumes about this team. We have played some very good teams to five this year-USD, Pepperdine, Santa Clara, and now UCSB-and we have come out on top each time. That requires a lot of confidence and maturity. I have been proud of this team for a long time, and tonight's comeback win really isn't a big surprise to me, but it does put some added luster on what has already been a great season."

In typical fashion Saint Mary's got big contributions from a variety of players, but the Gaels received a huge boost from middle blockers Megan Burton and Shannon Lowell. Lowell notched 11 kills on 25 swings, for a .385 hitting percentage, while adding six total blocks. Burton notched five kills on 16 swings for a .125 hitting percentage, but matched a season-high with 11 total blocks. The combined play at the net was a big reason for the Gauchos team hitting percentage of .100.

As a team, Saint Mary's had four players record double-digits in kills, leading the team was freshman Lauren Corp who recorded 14 kills, with one assists three aces nine digs and four total blocks. Junior Megan York notched her team-high ninth double-double of the season, with 10 kills on 23 swings, for a .348 hitting percentage, whole notching 16 digs and six total blocks. Sophomore Chanteal Satele finished the evening with 12 kills on 31 swings for a .290 hitting percentage.

Setters Kapua Kamana'o and Missy White both played extremely well down the stretch, setting up the Gaels comeback. Kamana'o finished the evening with 21 assists, while also notching nine digs. White recorded her second-career double-double with a team-high 27 assists and 13 digs. Senior libero Alita Fisher was a star for the Gaels; she finished the evening with 17 digs, but did most of her handy work down the stretch, recording 10 of her 17 digs in the final three sets.

"This was a hard fought win by our team," said senior middle blocker Megan Burton. "After the second set Rob reminded us that we don't have to do anything special, all we have to do is play SMC volleyball, by taking care of each contact at a time. The girls all pulled together to pull out this victory, we finally got in our rhythm and began executing on the floor. The best thing is that we still can play better and right now we're preparing to do that tomorrow against the winner of the Long Island/Stanford match.

To open the match the Gaels and Gauchos traded points, with the teams even at three. A block by Megan Burton and Lauren Jaeckel put the Gaels up one, 4-3. Saint Mary's pushed their lead to three, 9-6, following a kill by Chanteal Satele. Another big block by Burton and Jaeckel put Saint Mary's up three again, 13-10. At the media break the Gaels had their largest lead of the set, up five, 15-10 following a kill by Lauren Corp. The fourth block of the set, this time by Lowell and York put Saint Mary's up six, 20-14, forcing UCSB to use a timeout. UCSB cut the lead to three following an attack error by Corp, the Gaels called a timeout with SMC in the lead 22-19. UC Santa Barbara cut the Saint Mary's lead to one, 23-22 Saint Mary's following a pair of service aces from Leah Sully. The Gauchos took the lead 24-23 following a kill by Rebecca Saraceno. A service error by Sully tied the set at 24. A kill by Kasey Kipp gave UC Santa Barbara the first set, 26-24.

In the second frame Saint Mary's jumped out to a 4-1 lead following a kill by Jaeckel and Corp and a block from Burton. But the Gauchos game right back taking the lead 6-4 following an attack error by Burton. The two sides battled to a tie at nine, following Lowell's fourth kill of the match. At the media break the Gauchos owned a two point lead, 15-13 UCSB following a Gaels attack error. The Gaels retook the lead following two Corp aces and yet another Burton blocks, 18-17 Saint Mary's. UC Santa Barbara forced the Gaels to use a timeout after retaking the lead 23-21, following a kill by Lily Lopez. The Gauchos took the second set following Saraceno's 12th kill of the match, 25-22 UCSB.

The third set began like the first two with the two sides trading points; the Gaels owned a slim 7-6 lead after a kill by Corp. Coming out of a timeout, the Gaels won a long rally caped off by a kill by Satele, 11-10 Gaels. A service ace by Missy White put the Gaels up two, 14-12. A booming shot up the middle from York put the Gaels up three, 17-14. Burton's fourth kill of the match put the Gaels up three again, 20-17. Burton continued her dominant play at the net, stuffing an attack from Saraceno, to put the gales up four, 22-18. A huge kill by Satele put the Gaels up 24-20, and White finished off the third set with an ace, 25-20 Gaels.

The fourth set opened with two kills by Lowell and a kill by Corp, but the Gauchos matched Saint Mary's to tie the set at three. Saint Mary's rallied for four consecutive points, following a block by Burton, and kills from Satele and York to go up 7-3. Saint Mary's strong play continued going up six, 11-5 following a York kill. An attack error from UCSB gave the Gaels their largest lead of the night, 13-5. A solo block by Corp gave the Gaels a 10 point lead, 18-8 late in the fourth set. Burton's 10th block of the match put the Gaels up 21-10. An attack error on the Gauchos sealed the fourth set, 25-14 Saint Mary's.

In the fifth and final set SMC took the early 3-1 lead following by three UCSB attack errors. Corp's 12th kill of the match gave the Gaels a three point lead, 5-2 Saint Mary's. Burton and Jaeckel combined to stuff a Saraceno attack to go up 8-3 at the break. UCSB cut the lead to three, following an attack error by Saint Mary's, 8-5 SMC. A kill by UCSB's Stacey Schmidt cut the Gaels lead to two, 9-7 SMC. Coming out of the timeout, Satele notched her 11th kill of the match to extend the Gaels lead to three 10-7. A UCSB service error put the Gaels up 13-8 late in the fifth set. The Gauchos wouldn't go away, closing the gap to two, 13-11 following a kill by Saraceno. Coming out of the Gaels timeout Megan York notched her 10th kill to give the Gaels a 14-11 lead. A kill by Lowell, her 11th of the match, closed out the set and the match, 15-13 and the biggest comeback of the year for Saint Mary's.

With the win the Gaels advance to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. The Gaels will play the winner of the Long Island/Stanford Match, at 7:00 PM at Maples Pavilion. Live Stats and video will be provided at www.SMCGaels.com.