Another rally propels Pac-12 all-star team to third straight win

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Pac-12 Conference

SANMING, China – The Pac-12 Volleyball All-Star team overcame another slow start to notch its third win in as many tries Friday night. This time the Conference team needed four sets to defeat the Chinese Junior National Team 20-25, 25-16, 25-17, 25-22.

The Chinese Junior National Team (JNT) had a 6-2 lead to open the first set before back-to-back kills by Stanford’s Brittany Howard and a stuff block by Howard and Arizona State’s Whitney Follette brought life back to the Pac-12. But even after going into the first technical timeout down 8-5, the Chinese team reeled off six-straight points and cruised to the first set win.

“All we can really do is talk about (the slow starts) and hope we can get going quicker,” head coach Jim Moore said. “We had a chance to watch the Junior National Team play last night before our match, and I don’t think they played very well. They served us tougher tonight and had us on our heels at the beginning. We fought through the fatigue like we had the two nights before and rallied.”

Washington’s Melanie Wade was a catalyst for the second set revival. The Pac-12 built a 15-10 lead but let JNT come back with a number of service errors. With the lead at 21-16, Wade and Utah’s Chelsey Schofield registered a block, giving the middle blocker from Washington the serve, which she never relinquished. The set ended with a service ace as an exclamation point.

“Melanie scored the most points for us tonight when you combine everything together – serving, blocking and she hit well,” Moore said. “She really brought us back in the second set serving. She pulled it out in the third set serving and scored points in the fourth too. Her serving was awesome tonight and had them on their heels.”

The Pac-12 was at a 0-5 deficit to start the third set, but the team crept back little by little with Cal’s Lillian Schonewise and UCLA’s Karsta Lowe blocking at the net. Wade’s serve again helped the team pull ahead. Wade’s latest ace put the Pac-12 squad up 9-7 and led to a JNT timeout, which she followed with yet another ace. The Conference team led by as many as 11 points in the set and closed it out on a kill by Wade.

In the fourth and final set, the Pac-12 opened with an ace by USC’s Samantha Bricio and built a 6-2 lead on back-to-back kills by Colorado’s Taylor Simpson and another by Follette. Service errors allowed JNT to creep back into the match, which was tied at 11, 17 and 22 as the teams traded points. Kills by Karsta Lowe, an ace by Penina Snuka and a stuff block by Schofield ended the set with the score 25-22.

“The performance as a whole was awesome. After the kind of travel we’ve done and the struggle with sleep, it was another gutsy performance to pull it out again. I thought the Chinese Junior National Team played much better tonight and served much better tonight.”

Although Wade had five aces, the team will look to focus on reducing service errors after tallying 12 against JNT and 14 the previous night.

The Pac-12, now 3-0 on the tour, will play its final match in Sanming at 7 p.m. Saturday against the Fujian team it defeated in its two opening matches of the trip.