Waves women’s volleyball closes season in the NCAA Tournament

(From left) Isabel Zelaya, Meg Brown, and Emma Ammerman celebrate after winning a point in their women’s volleyball NCAA Tournament match against Stanford. Photo by Sarah Otteman

The Pepperdine Waves women’s volleyball team’s season came to a close on Dec. 2. 

The Waves were defeated by the Stanford Cardinal 3-1 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament at Stanford’s Maples Pavilion. 

Pepperdine finished the 2022 campaign with a 19-11 record. 

Waves head coach Scott Wong said Pepperdine’s 30-game season was memorable. 

“It was a lot of great times on the court,” he said. “The way our team responded, the way our team had a lot of fight. It’s been fun to see that fight from every one of our 13 players. There are wins, there are some losses in there. There are some great environments that we’ve played in, which has been a blast. The goal from day one this year was to be able to play in front of the best environments against the best teams.”

The Cardinal downed the Waves 25-11, 25-18, 18-25, 25-20. 

Senior setter Isabel Zelaya had 32 assists, 10 digs, three kills, and two blocks for Pepperdine, and junior middle blocker Meg Brown tallied 10 kills, five blocks, and one ace. Sophomore Grace Chillingworth had nine kills and four digs, and freshman outside hitter Emily Hellmuth recorded six kills, three blocks, and one ace. Vanessa Polk, a freshman middle blocker, tallied eight kills and three blocks, while graduate student libero and defensive specialist Riley Patterson recorded eight digs. Junior opposite and outside hitter Emma Ammerman rang up nine kills and three blocks, including one solo. 

Stanford took a 10-2 lead in the first set and never looked back as they ran off with a 25-11 victory. The second match was a tighter contest though. It was tied 8-8 at one point and then knotted at 12 after kills by Hellmuth and Chillingworth and a rejection by Ammerman and Brown. However, the Cardinal took control and pulled out the 25-18 triumph. 

Points by Ammerman and Chillingworth and an ace from Hellmuth pushed the Waves to a one-point lead early in the third set. Pepperdine also led 12-8 after an ace from Brown, and 18-12 after kills by Ammerman and Chillingworth. A number of kills by Hellmuth and blocks from Ammerman and Polk led Pepperdine to closing the set with the 25-18 win. 

Stanford held leads of 12-8 and 14-10 in the fourth set before consecutive blocks led to the Waves tying the match at 16. The Cardinal responded though and closed the game with a 25-20 victory. 

Pepperdine had three straight losses last month before ending the regular season with a win over Portland on Nov. 22.

The squad featured six freshman this season and only two seniors, so the team was much changed from the 2021 Waves bunch, which was also defeated in the first round of the NCAA Championships. 

Hellmuth was named the West Coast Conference Freshman of the Year and was also named to the conference’s All-Freshman Team. She was the third consecutive Pepperdine player to capture the top freshman honor. Chillingworth won it last season and Brown in 2020.

Brown and Chillingworth were named to the All-WCC First Team and Patterson was named to the conference’s second team. Zelaya was named All-WCC Honorable Mention and Polk was named to the WCC All-Freshman Team. 

Ammerman said the season was special. She said the team overcame any obstacles they faced. 

“The culture that we have, the girls on this team were new this year, so it was a big shift,” she said. “Being able to flourish in that new culture and with this new team, I think was a testament to the leadership we have in our coaching staff and our seniors. It’s a season I will never forget.”