MORAGA, Calif. -- Home court continued to serve as an important advantage for the Saint Mary's volleyball team Saturday as the Gaels fed off a loud and proud crowd at McKeon Pavilion to sweep Pepperdine 25-18, 25-23, 27-25 in West Coast Conference action.
Jordan Shaw capped an impressive week for Saint Mary's by leading the team in kills again, finishing with 17 kills and eight digs for the Gaels (10-5, 6-1 WCC). Kristina Graven added 10 kills, Dalas Dodd chipped in with 37 assists and Danica Mendivil had a strong match with six kills and 12 digs.
It was also another home win for the Gaels, who improved to 7-0 on their home floor this season. Five home matches remain this season, with San Diego and BYU next up on Oct. 24 and 26.
For the second straight match, Saint Mary's set the tone with its serving. The Gaels racked up eight aces, giving them a total of 18 this week. Dodd and Graven had three apiece and Mileva Popovic also had two.
"It was a good win for us," Mendivil said. "Obviously, there were times we were down and we had to get back up but I think that was really good for us. It showed us to keep the pressure on them, not let it get to us and to just keep fighting through and that we can really do it."
The first set was mostly a back and forth affair, with Saint Mary's slowly but surely building a lead. The deciding run came midway through the set, as the Gaels went on an 8-2 run to go up 17-10 and take control. It was the service game that keyed the run, as Popovic made her mark with back to back aces and Dodd adding one of her own.
Pepperdine (9-7, 3-5) would fight to stay in the set, but Saint Mary's had too much at the end. The Gaels scored three of the final four points, with Shaw slamming a kill off the block, Madelyn Hutson rejecting a Waves attempt for a block and Hutson following that with a kill up the line to end the set 25-18.
The Waves led early in the second set, but it was another lengthy Saint Mary's rally that would turn the tide. This time, the Gaels ran off a 7-1 streak, and it was again the serve that made the difference. Dodd keyed the run with two aces, the second of which capped the stretch and left SMC up 14-12.
Pepperdine came back to take the lead late, but a spate of errors by the Waves would give the advantage back to Saint Mary's. A kill by Shaw put the Gaels up 24-22, a point by the Waves cut the lead in half and a service error ended the set.
Saint Mary's closed things out with a tense third set win that again required a few long runs to stave off Pepperdine's charge. The Waves took a 10-4 lead right away, but the Gaels scored the next eight points. And, as had been the case all day, the serve did a good deal of damage as Graven capped the run with back to back aces.
Another rally by Pepperdine left the Waves up by as much as four late, but Saint Mary's had the answer again. Tied at 25, a tip by Graven found the middle of the court and Hutson and Mendivil teamed up at net to end the match with an emphatic block.
"The best thing that happened in this match is that we dug ourselves out of some pretty big holes to come back to win the last two sets," Saint Mary's coach Rob Browning said. "The fact that we dug those holes for ourselves is not something we're happy about. I think we played below our level for much of the match and that's disappointing.
However, Pepperdine is a good team and the fact that we could battle with them and come out on top in spite of the fact that we did not play great is comforting. We had to rely too much on Kristina and Jordan offensively, but they were up to the challenge and did a great job handling the load."
Saint Mary's stays in the Bay Area next week but will head out for a pair of road matches against their local rivals. First up is a trip to San Francisco on Thursday for a 6:30 p.m. match against the Dons. On Saturday, the Gaels head to the South Bay for a 1 p.m. matinee against Santa Clara.
"We're still on the road but we're home because they're close," Mendivil said. "We just need to go out there and play hard, just like we do every day."