The Pacific Union College men's volleyball team emerged victorious in an intense five-game match against Sonoma State University last Tuesday night.
The match opened with a tribute to senior Pioneers David Rai and Rob Wells, who were each honored at their last home game with a signed volleyball.
Outside hitter Scott Eastman set the pace for game one as he pulled off one of the most incredible plays of the season. Jonathan Paden picked up a dig, which deflected high off Steve Dulcich into the stands. Eastman ran from mid-court to outside of the back line and managed to get the ball across the net. A stunned Sonoma team, who thought the ball was irretrievable, lost focus and could not get the ball back over. The crowd went wild as the Pioneers went on from a 12-5 lead to win the set 15-9.
In game two, the Pioneers picked up where they left off. Outside hitter David Rai impressed the crowd with strong jump serves, including an ace, to give the Pioneers the lead at 7-4. Rai later brought PUC up 12-4 with a kill from the right side. The Pioneers looked like they were on a three-set victory as they ended the set 13-8.
The Pioneers took a 9-3 lead in the third game, forcing SSU to call a time out.
Hitting errors by PUC forced coach Bob Paulson to call a time out at 10-8. Looking like an entirely different team from the first two sets, PUC let the match slip away to SSU 15-11.
"When we started to lose a few big points we got down and lost some of the intensity we had earlier," said Rai.
Sonoma State came alive in the fourth set with a 5-0 lead. The Pioneers came back to tie the score at 8 apiece. David Rai banged three kills in a row to bring the Pioneers up 11-8. Sonoma quickly tied it again at 11-11 and served four unanswered points for a 15-11 win.
The fifth set was the clincher, as it was played by the rally scoring system. The Pioneers pulled off another incredible play, as David Rai dug the ball with his foot, which sent Jonathan Paden running for the save. Paden got the ball close enough to the net for middle Rob Wells to bury it and bring the score to 8-4. Middle Steve Dulcich hit back-to-back kills to bring the score to 14-9. Sonoma pulled within two at 12-14, causing Paulson to call a timeout. With Sonoma serving, PUC got a perfect pass and set for the monster finale kill by Rob Wells, who ended it 15-12.
"It was a tough game against a tough opponent," said coach Paulson. "This year's team was a great group, and it's rewarding for these guys to finish the season with a win."
The Pioneers were led by Scott Eastman and David Rai with 18 and 16 kills, respectively. The Pioneers finished their season with an overall record of 5-9.