PORTLAND, Ore. -- The Saint Mary's volleyball team wrapped up the 2013 West Coast Conference season in emphatic fashion Saturday, sweeping host Portland 25-9, 25-21, 25-13 at the Chiles Center.
With the win, Saint Mary's improves to 17-9 overall and finishes 13-5 in WCC play. The Gaels end the WCC season in third place, with their final tally of 13 wins tying the 2009 team for most conference wins in a single season. Pacific joined the WCC in 2013, meaning this year's squad played two more conference matches than in 2009.
It is also the third year in a row Saint Mary's finishes in third place, and the sixth-consecutive year that head coach Rob Browning's squad has concluded the season in third or higher.
Kristina Graven notched yet another double-double in the win, finishing with 12 kills and 13 digs in her final WCC match. Jordan Shaw also closed out her conference career with a strong 13-kill, seven-dig performance. Dalas Dodd moved into eighth on the SMC single-season assists list with 37, finishing the day with 1,137 on the year.
"The girls played well today. We did not take this match lightly and wanted to come out firing on all cylinders from the first serve," Browning said. "We did, and we caught Portland off guard and it took them a while to regroup but when they did it was a much more competitive match. Portland is not nearly as bad as their record indicates. They are a good team that has had some bad luck and it's tough for all of us playing in this conference. They would be .500 or better in several other conferences. We are playing well and we are looking forward to hosting UTEP next Friday."
Saint Mary's bolted out of the gate Saturday, opening the game on a 7-3 run to take control. That served only as prelude to an even bigger run to close the first set out, as the Gaels scored the final nine points to score a dominant 25-9 victory. The final three points of the set came on attack errors by Portland, but much of the pressure came from a strong service game by Danica Mendivil, who served out the set for Saint Mary's.
Another strong start in the second put Saint Mary's in command, and a kill by Natalie Loos put the Gaels up 17-8. Portland rallied though, playing its strongest stretch of the match to get back in the mix.
The WCC's leader in kills per set, Portland's Autumn Wedan, was right in the middle of the comeback, and back to back kills by the big outside hitter brought the SMC lead down to two at 21-19. The Gaels snapped out of their funk shortly thereafter, eventually finishing the set off when Shaw slammed a kill off the block and down to give SMC its 25th point.
The third set feature more strong play by the Gaels, and the visitors opened the set on a 13-3 run to essentially put the match away. Portland fought to keep the match alive late, but a block by Madelyn Hutson and Mendivil provided the final point as Saint Mary's finished its swing through the Pacific Northwest without dropping a set.
Saint Mary's season is far from over. The Gaels return home to McKeon Pavilion next week for the regular season finale as they host UTEP on Friday at 5:30 p.m. Tickets to that match are available by clicking the Tickets link on SMCGaels.com or by calling the SMC Athletic Ticket Office at (925) 631-GoTx.