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Tuesday, December 11 , 2018, 12:38 pm | Fair 67º

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College Volleyball

Westmont Volleyball Goes 2-2 at Tough Columbia Fall Classic

Westmont Volleyball (23-4) headed to the American heartland earlier this week in search of top-level competition. The goal was to help the sixth-ranked Warriors prepare for NAIA National Championships later this year by participating in the Columbia Fall Volleyball Classic, featuring some of the best teams in the NAIA.

After two days of play, Westmont returns to Santa Barbara with two wins and two losses and a ton of invaluable experience.

"The level of play has been very high," said Westmont head coach Patti Cook. "It is exactly what we expected and the reason we came out to Missouri. Every team is extremely strong, but in different areas than us. We have to adapt, find their strengths and find their weaknesses."

In the first match, Westmont faced No, 10 Missouri Baptist, prevailing in five hard-fought sets (25-23, 23-25, 25-21, 23-25, 15-12).

"I felt like we stayed calm in the chaos and kept pushing and fighting," said Cook about the match. "Not once did we lose faith that we were going to win that match."

Libby Dahlberg led the Warriors with 14 kills while posting a .462 attack percentage. She also tallied nine blocks (two solo and seven block assists), matching her personal best.

"Libby was a beast at the net," said Cook. "She was doing a great job of blocking, slowing down their middle attack and also making some key hits. 

"We also put in Mila Maricic to help stop their middle attack which was their strongest point," reported Cook. "Mila did a nice job of diving around, getting touches on a lot of middle hits and allowing us to run our offense off of transition."

Setter Amy Buffham recorded 26 assists in the match and tallied seven digs.

"Amy jammed her finger while we were warming up but she stayed mentally present and came out and set a steady offense," said Cook.

Right side hitter Cassidy Rea added 12 kills to the Warriors' totals and notched five blocks while Sam Neely added eight kills and four blocks.

The second match on Friday saw the Warriors fall to the host and No. 13 Columbia, in three sets (25-22, 25-23, 25-23)

"We were pretty evenly matched with them – all across the board," said Cook. "Our serve reception got a little shaky with serves we weren't used to seeing. We didn't step up to that challenge. They had an amazing serve receive and I couldn't get them in trouble with our serves at all. That's the one thing where the match turned in their favor."

Dahlberg recorded 10 kills to lead the Warriors while hitting .316.

Westmont had a short turnaround with an early morning match against Lindenwood-Belleville (Ill.). The early morning didn't seem to be a problem for the Warriors, however, as Westmont won in three sets (25-17, 25-9 25-10).

"We played at a high level and looked really good in that game," said Cook. "They could not slow us down with their block."

Outside hitters Taylor Beckman and Brooklynn Cheney led the way offensively with 11 and 10 kills respectively. Cheney posted a .556 attack percentage during the match while Beckman notched a .381 percentage.

"Taylor had a fantastic game," noted Cook. "She took advantage of a ton of holes in the block.

"Sam (Neely) got food poisoning last night and had to sit that game out and sleep in at the hotel," reported Cook. "Patti Kerman came in and got the start and was solid on both blocking and on offense."

Kerman notched nine kills and a .353 attack percentage. She also had four blocks.

In the final match against No. 5 Park (Mo,), the Warriors fell 3-1 (25-22, 25-14, 21-25, 27-25). 

"We came out flat and had to get our heads around the fact that we were going to have to play a level up in order to hang with and beat Park," said Cook. "Once we figured that out we played well."

Rea tallied 18 kills for the Warriors while Beckman added 17. 

"They did a nice job of slowing Libby down – they had done their homework. Libby had to move her hits around because they were putting up a good block against her."

Bufham totaled 33 assists in the match while Cheney notched 11 kills and 19 digs.

"Overall, it was a really good learning experience for us, especially for our younger players," said Cook about the trip "They got to see a level of play that we need to play at, and even beyond that, if we want to win a national championship."

Westmont will continue the 2017 campaign with a road game at Vanguard on Thursday.

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