Pepperdine volleyball wins tight battle

Senior outside hitter Julie Rubenstein had 17 kill and 15 digs in the Waves' win over Portland. Pepperdine Sports Information

The Pepperdine University women’s volleyball team improved to 16-1 and 4-1 in the West Coast Conference on Saturday after a close win at home over WCC rival Portland (25-15, 25-20, 22-25, 26-28, 15-11). This is the Waves’ best season start in school history.

The loss dropped the Pilots to 5-16 overall and 0-6 in the WCC.

“Portland got extremely hot in sets three and four and we didn’t weather it very well, like we’ve done in the past,” Pepperdine assistant coach Tim Jensen said. “We buckled down in the fifth set, and showed our heart and did what we needed to. But that’s what we needed to do in sets three and four. That’s what we’ve been doing all season to this point, but not today. Give Portland credit because they battled back. Give us credit for sticking with it and winning the fifth set.”

Senior outside hitter Julie Rubenstein led five Waves who reached double-figures in kills with 17, and she added 15 digs for her team-high seventh double-double of the season. Junior outside hitter Rachel Lumsden had 14 kills and 11 digs, freshman outside hitter Lilla Frederick had 11 kills and 10 digs.

Pepperdine’s middle blockers both had season highs for kills, as freshman Kim Hill had 14 and senior Cassi Chamberlain added 12.

Freshman libero Stevi Robinson had 28 digs and sophomore setter Kealohilani Kea, while making her second career start, had 57 assists, seven digs and five kills.

Portland kept the first set close for a while, but with the Waves holding a 10-9 lead, they went on a 9-1 run that featured three kills from Chamberlain. With a 22-15 lead, Pepperdine scored the next three points on two kills by Lumsden and one by Hill to close out the set.

The Waves had an 11-10 lead in the second set and a 7-0 run pushed it to an insurmountable lead. Rubenstein had two kills and two block assists during the spurt.

Pepperdine was hitting .424 as a team after the first two sets, but then Portland started picking up the pace. The third set was tied nine times until the Pilots took the lead for good at 21-19 after a Pepperdine service error and a kill by Jennifer Sheedy. The Waves got back to within one point at 23-22 but the Pilots scored the final two points on a Wave attack error and a block by Kaylyn Jones and Marissa Plummer.

After falling behind 8-3 in the fourth set, things were looking good for the Waves when they went on an 8-0 run to make it 11-8. The lead grew to five points at 16-11. But the Pilots eventually tied the match at 19-19 on a Jessica Clemens kill and went ahead 21-19 after consecutive kills by Sheedy. The Waves eventually tied the match at 24-24 on a service ace by Robinson. But tied 26-26, Pepperdine had a service error and an attack error to send the match to a fifth set.

Portland’s last lead of the fifth set came at 5-4, as Pepperdine got three straight kills, one by Chamberlain and two by Rubenstein. The lead was later 11-9, but the Pilots got kills from Plummer and Clemens to tie the match again. Pepperdine closed it out from there, however, beginning with a Lumsden kill. A Portland blocking error gave the Waves their next point, and Kea and Frederick followed with kills to end the match.

The Waves ended up outhitting the Pilots, .319 to .274. Portland got a match-high 21 kills from Ashley Grayson.

Pepperdine is ranked No. 14 by Molten/Volleyball Magazine and 16th by the AVCA.

The Waves conclude the first half of the WCC campaign next week with road matches at No. 20 San Diego on Thursday and San Francisco on Saturday.

Pepperdine returns home on Oct. 30 for a match with Santa Clara. During that match, the Waves and Broncos will participate in the “Dig for the Cure” event to raise money for the Susan G. Komen Foundation and to increase awareness about breast cancer. For more information on how to support the cause, call 310.506.6018. For information about the foundation, go to