Westmont’s Patty Kerman (13) and Audrey Brown combine to block Kristi Mertins of Ottawa Unversity of Arizona.  (Gary Kim / Noozhawk photo)

The Westmont volleyball team clinched a share of the GSAC regular season championship after a three-set sweep (25-17, 25-17, 25-13) of visiting OUAZ (Ariz.) on Saturday afternoon. The Warriors share the regular season title with Menlo, who defeated Hope International in four sets today in a winner-take-all match to determine who else would be crowned co-champions.

“It feels good, but we’re not satisfied,” said Westmont head coach Ruth McGolpin. “I still think about last week’s match or our other defeats, but I don’t want to take anything away from what these moments mean. I told the team there’s a reason we were put in this situation.”

Had Westmont defeated Menlo last Saturday when the Warriors were winning 10-6 and then 12-9 in the fifth set, Westmont would be outright GSAC regular season champions. That loss, coupled with a few others in conference play, left the Warriors ruing potential missed opportunities.

“Honestly being co-champs stings a little, but we were just talking about that in our post-match meeting, just using that fuel to go into next weekend and take home the entire tournament,” said junior libero Lauren Friis.

Nonetheless, Westmont clinched its sixth GSAC championship in program history and its first since 2017, when the Warriors won both the regular season title and the inaugural GSAC Women’s Volleyball Tournament. After not winning a GSAC title since 1993, Westmont has won GSAC championships in three of the past four years, beginning in 2016, Cassidy Rea’s freshman year at Westmont.

“It’s really cool because the team I started with (in 2016) started this legacy of winning,” said Rea, a senior opposite hitter. “I think that that attitude will continue next year and the years after.”

In the first set, the two teams battled back and forth, until at 13-12 in favor of Westmont, the Warriors went on a 5-0 run to take an 18-13 lead. A Rea kill started the run, before Friis served consecutive aces. A bad set by OUAZ kept the run going before Brooklynn Cheney capped the run off with a kill of her own. The Warriors went on to win the first set, 25-17.

Hali Galloway led all players with five kills in the first set, followed by Cheney’s four and Rea’s three.

With the win, Westmont (23-6 overall, 14-4 GSAC) improved to 11-0 at home this season. However, the Warriors will not have home-court advantage in next week’s GSAC Tournament. Because of tiebreakers, Westmont will be the second seed behind top-seeded Menlo, who will host the tournament. All six of Westmont’s losses this season have come away from home, including last week’s five-set loss in Atherton.

“I’m definitely satisfied, to some degree, with a GSAC co-championship,” said McGolpin. “But I would’ve rather hosted. We’ve got great fans here.”

As the second seed, the Warriors will have a first round bye and will take on the winner of Friday’s match between the third seed and the sixth seed in the second semifinal on November 16. Westmont’s semifinal match will begin 45 minutes after the conclusion of the first semifinal, which is scheduled to begin at 11:00 a.m. The winners of the two semifinal matchups will play each other in the championship match that night at 7:00 p.m.

This is the final year of the GSAC Women’s Volleyball Tournament though, as beginning next year, the GSAC regular season champion will earn the conference’s automatic bid to the NAIA National Tournament. That idea was proposed by the GSAC coaches and voted on by the GSAC Administrative Committee earlier this year.

Westmont won the first ever GSAC Women’s Volleyball Tournament in 2017 before losing to The Master’s in the championship match last year. The Warriors will hope to add another tournament title in the final year of its current format.

“We’re really hungry because it’s been somewhat of an inconsistent season. We have a really good team and we have really good moments, but not all the time,” said Rea. “I think of our pre-GSAC tournament out in Nebraska. We beat the #3 team in the nation and we played lights out. I know we have moments left like that. This is not going to be the end.”