The Menlo College women's volleyball team will take a 14-match winning streak into the NAIA National Championships this weekend in Caldwell, Idaho, where the Oaks will face No. 14-ranked College of Idaho on Saturday afternoon.
The Coyotes (21-6), who were 13-1 at home, were the Cascade Conference regular season and postseason tournament champions, slipping past Eastern Oregon University in three sets this past Saturday to claim the tournament crown.
Menlo (17-6) earned its ticket to the national tournament with a three-set sweep of Embry-Riddle on Saturday in Atherton to take home the California Pacific Conference Tournament championship. Menlo enters the opening match having not lost since Sept. 13th.
Up two sets to none in the conference playoff finals and leading 21-19 in Game 3, Menlo's Stephenie Monderine set Nicole Yap, who rose atop the net and let one loose. The ball ricocheted off of Embry-Riddle's defensive efforts and, just like that, Menlo was on its way to the NAIA Tournament.
The top-seeded Oaks toppled the No. 2 Eagles, 25-13, 25-22, 25-23.
"I'm speechless," said Monderine, who finished with a match-high 24 assists. "This is just on a whole other level. I'm so excited to bring it (the title) back. It's an amazing feeling."
The Oaks took nothing to chance in their three-set sweep, including erasing a late deficit in the final game. Menlo trailed 19-18 but, thanks to a Courtney Calicdan kill, a Courtney Calicdan ace, an attack error by Riddle, and a Stephanie Wertz kill, the Oaks took a 22-19 advantage.
The Eagles rallied with two of their own to trim the Menlo lead to one, before making an attack error to pad the Oaks' lead to 23-21. Menlo then made an error of its own, before two Yap kills, with a Mahlet Lee kill sandwiched in the middle, gave the Oaks the set and the match.
"I was overwhelmed with emotion," Menlo head coach Daniel Rasay said on capturing his first conference crown since joining the Oaks in 2010. "Every season you go through your ups and downs with injuries, emotions, and all of those kinds of things. To endure it though and come through to win a championship makes all those emotions come back to you, and to see the look on the girls' faces is awesome."
Yap's final two kills to account for the Oaks 24th and 25th points of the third set, capped off a stellar performance that saw the junior from San Francisco lead her team with 12 kills. The Cal Pac's Newcomer of the Year came up big in the second set as well, helping Menlo go on a late charge to swing the momentum over to the Oaks.
Menlo trailed 18-16 before rolling off five straight points, two on Yap kills, to take a 21-19 advantage. The Oaks never looked back in seizing the second game 25-22. Menlo came out rolling in the first set, controlling things from start to finish in a 25-13 blowout win.
Yap wasn't the only outside hitter to come up with a strong showing in the title clash, as senior Stephanie Wertz and Calicdan each had eight kills, with Wertz leading the Oaks with a .438 hitting percentage. Senior Mika Mendoza carried Menlo on the defensive side of things in compiling a match high 29 digs.