Bulldogs beat Sunbirds in volleyball for first time
Tuesday’s intracity volleyball exhibition match did nothing officially to advance Fresno State’s chances of winning the Mountain West Conference title.
But the Bulldogs’ 25-19, 26-28, 25-27, 25-20, 15-11 victory over Fresno Pacific certainly bolstered their confidence while resonating throughout the Save Mart Center and across a local region that produced a combined 13 players on the two rosters.
It marked the first time the NCAA Division I Bulldogs have beaten the six-time NAIA champion Sunbirds — playing their first season as an NCAA D-II program — in nine meetings.
“Fresno Pacific is a great team with great players and terrific coaches,” fifth-year Fresno State coach Lauren Netherby-Sewell said. “They have a history of winning. Fresno State has been through a lot the last six years, and we are working our way out of that. The fact we can change the outcome of this match is a big thing. Hopefully, this match changes people’s perception of Fresno State a little bit.”
The Bulldogs got key contributions from three former local high school standouts — Korrin Wild (Sanger), Lauren Albertson (Clovis West and a former Sunbird) and Cecilia Agraz (Hanford) — against a Fresno Pacific team that routinely recruits much of the area’s top talent.
Wild had 19 kills and 15 digs, Albertson 13 kills and six block assists, and Agraz five digs.
“It absolutely helps us with our ultimate goal (of winning the Mountain West),” Wild said. “It was a great exhibition against a great team.”
Fresno State appeared on its way to loss No. 9 against the Sunbirds after falling behind 10-6 in the fourth set. But the Bulldogs scored four straight points to forge a 10-10 tie, then took advantage of four Fresno Pacific errors down the stretch to force a deciding fifth set.
Fresno Pacific led 8-6 and 9-8 in the fifth, but the Bulldogs got three kills from Wild and one from Maci Murdock, along with four Sunbirds errors, to pull out the win.
“We had our opportunities, but we dug holes in every set, and that makes volleyball a lot harder than it is,” second-year Fresno Pacific coach Kelly Winter said. “But this was a great match for everyone. It was good to display the kind of talent we have here.”
The exhibition might not have needed five sets if Fresno State finished off big leads in the second and third sets.
The Bulldogs were up 21-14 in the second and 19-11 in the third before Rupia Inck led Sunbirds rallies in both sets, accounting for 12 of her match-leading 25 kills during those two sets.
“Our focus is one point at a time,” Albertson said. “We knew we had the capability to win, we just had to be mentally tough.”
Fresno State (8-6, 1-1) returns to Mountain West play on Thursday when it hosts conference co-leading New Mexico (14-2, 2-0).
“This was a great night to tighten up our loose ends and to have a match like this to test us,” Albertson said.
Fresno Pacific, which entered the NCAA D-II Top 25 for the first time at No. 25 on Monday, resumes Pacific West Conference play tonight at home against Chaminade.
The Sunbirds are 11-1 overall and 3-0 in the PacWest.
By Nick Giannandrea