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SBCC surprises No. 25 Canyons to give Kat Niksto her first win

Makenzie Phelps flies through the air on a spike attempt. She had eight kills in the Vaqueros' 3-1 win over Canyons. (Photo by Ken Sciallo/Sevilla Photography)
Makenzie Phelps flies through the air on a spike attempt. She had eight kills in the Vaqueros' 3-1 win over Canyons. (Photo by Ken Sciallo/Sevilla Photography)

SBCC hit a season-high .324 on Wednesday night and upended No. 25 Canyons 3-1 for its first women's volleyball win of the season. The scores were 25-17, 26-24, 19-25, 25-21.

The Vaqueros (1-5) staged a dramatic rally to win the second set after trailing 24-19. They reeled off seven unanswered points and secured the 26-24 comeback win on an ace by Bella Brandt, a freshman from Germany, and a kill in the middle by Madi Mullins.

It was also the first college win for new head coach Kat Niksto, whose roster is comprised of 10 freshmen.

"It feels really good," said Niksto, a former Dos Pueblos player who's been a head coach at the Santa Barbara Volleyball Club and assistant at Laguna Blanca. "I told the girls it's easier to talk about the growing process and not being focused on wins and losses when you lose. The first thing I told them after 'Congratulations on the win' was that we got better tonight.

"We played phenomenal defense and we've been working on our blocking and our defenses aligning together. We did that really well tonight."

Gabi Brewer (14), Lauren Holsted (13) and Mullins (11) all recorded season highs in kills. Holsted, a 5-9 freshman from Bishop Diego High, racked up seven aces, nine digs and hit .455.

Mullins, a 6-foot middle blocker from Tustin, hit a sizzling .600 . Brewer's percentage was .542 with one error in 24 attempts. Lauren Wold had a season-best 48 assists. Bella Brandt, a freshman libero from Stuttgart, Germany, led in digs with 12.

SBCC dominated the first set, riding a 7-2 run to take a 15-8 lead on a backrow kill by Brewer. Holsted had three aces and the last one made it 24-16. Mullins capped the 25-17 win by pounding a 1-set from Wold in the middle.

"It feels very good to get our first win," said Brewer, a 5-11 opposite from San Diego. "We talked and filled each other up with positive energy. We used the third-set loss as motivation because we didn't want to go to a fifth set."

After dropping the third set 25-19, the Vaqueros came out on a mission, building leads of 10-4 and 14-6 on a block by Jordan Falconer. The Cougars (2-3) pulled within two points at 19-17 and 21-19 before Makenzie Phelps (7 kills) restored order with a kill down the line.

Brewer tooled a shot off the block for the 23rd point and Grace Ferguson, a 6-2 middle blocker who led Canyons with 17 kills, served long to give the Vaqueros match point.

After Phelps served in the net, Brewer ended it with a crosscourt slam from the right side.

"This was our best match of the year," said Brewer.

Holsted added, "This is a really good group of girls. We're really young but we're very connected on and off the court, which is really important. I loved getting a win on our home court."

Niksto said serving has been a big focus.

"I always tell the girls, we want to have more aces than errors and we didn't quite meet that goal," Niksto said. "I keep telling them, 'We're such a good serving team, we should never let them off the hook by missing your serve.' "

Brewer and Brandt had four aces apiece and the Vaqueros enjoyed a 16-11 differential in aces vs. errors.

"We want to keep building on this," said Niksto. "We still have 2½ weeks until conference starts and at the end of the day, our overall record won't matter once we get into conference. We have to keep getting better and gaining experience like we did tonight, going up 2-0 in sets for the first time.

"Makenzie Phelps went to serve on match point and missed it like 10 feet short. You could tell she was super nervous, she'd never been in that position before. Then I was so proud of her because she came right back and made a perfect pass and we win the match. The next time she goes back to serve with the match on the line, she'll be a lot more confident."

The Vaqueros travel to Huntington Beach to take on No. 24 Golden West (4-0) on Friday at 6 p.m.

Kat Niksto was all smiles after getting her first college win in a 3-1 upset of No. 25 Canyons.