Saving Grace: Crawford's Play Sparks Rally As Women's VB Wins SCC North Title

Grace Crawford sparked the Lancers with a save and kill as PCC wins the South Coast Conference North Division title Wednesday night at Hutto-Patterson Gym.
Grace Crawford sparked the Lancers with a save and kill as PCC wins the South Coast Conference North Division title Wednesday night at Hutto-Patterson Gym.

Visiting second-place Mt. San Antonio College appeared to grab the momentum to upset the first-place Pasadena City College women's volleyball team Wednesday night. PCC let an 18-11 lead in the opening set slip away, and despite having double-set point at 24-22 lost the game, 26-24.

Things got worse early in set 2 as Mt. SAC jumped out to a 6-1 lead. Things were unraveling fast for the Lancers. And then it happened. Mounties middle blocker Jordon Wilson ripped a serve that had ace written all over it but PCC defensive specialist Grace Crawford somehow saved the difficult shot from hitting the floor as her serve receive flew back over the net for a reverse kill. As the Hutto-Patterson Gymnasium crowd and PCC bench roared, the play woke up the Lancers. It sparked a wild 13-1 scoring run as PCC went on to capture the South Conference Conference North Division championship in four sets, 24-26, 25-18, 25-20, 25-22. 

The Lancers improved to 16-9 overall, kept their perfect division record going at 7-0 and will advance to the postseason with an automatic Southern California Regional Playoff bid for a first place finish. Mt. SAC fell to 13-13 and will finish second in the division at 5-2. PCC closes the conference season on Friday when it hosts Chaffey College on Sophomore Night at PCC. The match has a 7:30 p.m. start time as it follows the second day of action at the PCC's women's basketball team's President's Roundball Classic tournament. 

Pasadena won just its third conference title ever in women's volleyball and all in the last eight years, also capturing the entire South Coast championship in 2009 and then a co-title in 2012 with El Camino. The conference split into two, 5-team divisions for the first time last year when Rio Hondo and Chaffey joined the SCC North. 

The Lancers had several players with big perfomances, especially setter Emily Leung. The sophomore dished out a season-high 51 assists, landed four kills, made seven digs and was a part of three assisted blocks as she quarterbacked the team's offensive attack. Sophomore outside hitter Paige Clingaman picked the right evening for her season high in kills with 17 as she hit .326. Letterman outside hitter Vanessa Lopez added 16 kills, twirled three aces, and was a defensive wizard with 16 digs. Sophomore libero Kelsey Sarreal was a defensive dynamo as well with 22 digs and she helped out the offense with seven setting assists.

Other big performers for PCC were redshirt freshman opposite Kendall Schmedes with 12 kills and 17 digs and sophomore middle blocker Lania Potter, who landed 10 kills and was a part of five blocks. Finally, freshman MB Rachel Johnson added seven kills while Crawford tallied 10 digs and the most important "kill" of the night.

"That play single-handedly turned around the match for us," said PCC head coach Mike Terrill, who directed a conference title in just his second season in charge of the program. "It was such an amazing point at a crucial time. It stoked a fire in us and the team took off from there. One of the things about our team is that we always seem to find a way to weather the storms. We had so many of our sophomore players step up with Emily's poise running our offense and her all-around leadership. Vanessa was outstanding from the back row including her power serving and her defense. Kelsey has been a steady player on defense and has worked hard to keep the libero jersey she earned early in the season. Paige hit the ball extremely well, and Lania has just been such a reliable player in the middle for us all year."

Terrill talked about the significance of winning a conference title.

"From November 16th of last year (season end), the returning sophomores knew the goal for us was to reach this point. We thought we had enough to make the playoffs and things didn't go our way in the seedings. It's especially gratifying to clinch a playoff spot and not leave the process up for chance. We have a great group of returning sophomores and our first full off-season of recruiting some key freshmen. I'm so proud of them all."

The Lancers are on a 5-match win streak and are 11-1 since September 27.