SURPRISE – The OUAZ women’s volleyball team twice surrendered a 2-0 lead before earning a pair of five-set victories on Saturday night to earn the title at the inaugural OUAZ Invitational. OUAZ (3-0) defeated Montana State-Northern in the early match before dropping Embry-Riddle (Ariz.) in the nightcap.
With the two results, OUAZ has now won seven straight matches that have been decided in a fifth set dating back to the 2019 season. This is the first time in program history the team has started 3-0.
OUAZ began the evening with a 25-19, 25-17, 24-26, 23-25, 15-11 win over MSU-Northern (1-3) in front of a rowdy home crowd. The Spirit seemed to be cruising through two sets, but we were unable to avoid a deciding set with a pair of two-point losses
In that fifth set, OUAZ raced out to a 7-2 lead and then did enough from that point to secure the win.
The Spirit tallied 63 kills and hit .187 in the win. They limited the SkyLights to .096 hitting behind 92 digs and eight blocks.
Kate Pestova led three Spirit players in double figures with 23 kills to become the first player in program history with 20-plus kills in consecutive matches. She also finished with 15 digs for a second straight double-double.
Avie Butsko added 17 kills and four blocks in her season debut. Kahea A’ea had 10 kills and 15 digs for her first career double-double. Cristal Carrizoza dished out 52 assists and had three aces to match Butsko for the team lead. Valentina Trovato set her career-high with 35 digs.
With only a 45 minute break before facing a rested Embry-Riddle (4-3) squad, OUAZ found enough in the tank in the end for a 25-20, 25-20, 24-26, 16-25, 17-15 win to cap nearly five hours of action.
Using a 6-0 run in the first set and then an 8-0 run in the second, the Spirit once again was in control with a 2-0 lead. They were poised for a sweep leading 24-22 in the third before the Eagles scored the next four points to extend the match.
Embry-Riddle used that momentum to open the fourth set with 11 of the first 14 points in pushing the match to a fifth set. The deciding set was all OUAZ early as they jumped out to an 8-2 lead before the Eagles stormed back to even the score at 11-11. Tied at 15-15 a few points later, Pestova ended the night with a pair of kills to complete the perfect weekend.
Pestova had 22 kills on .315 hitting with 17 digs in the match. She also chipped in five blocks and one ace. Chelsea Taylor added 12 kills and five blocks. Butsko finished with 10 kills and eight blocks.
As a team, OUAZ recorded 57 kills – including 30 in the first two sets – one .160 hitting. They held Embry-Riddle to just .107 hitting behind 100 digs and 13 blocks while adding six service aces.
Carrizoza had the second 20-20 in program history – and first by a setter – with 40 assists and 20 digs. She also had three aces, two kills, and one ace. Trovato had 22 digs and Brooklyn Rainer finished with four blocks.
By winning the two matches, OUAZ won the OUAZ Invitational as the lone team to go undefeated in the modified round-robin format.
The Spirit will now have 10 days off before facing Park Gilbert on August 31 in Gilbert, Ariz.