Clovis News: Sports

Sunbirds work to put away first-round volleyball opponent

Fresno Pacific in trouble at the NAIA volleyball championships?

Not really. But the two-time defending champion Sunbirds had to work in the final set to sweep St. Ambrose (Iowa) on Tuesday in the first-round of pool play in Sioux City, Iowa.

"We had a few nerves, but for the most part settled in and played well," Sunbirds coach Dennis Janzen said.

Martina Gregusova had 13 kills and Lisa Shilling eight in Fresno Pacific's 25-16, 25-11, 26-24 victory -- the team's 36th straight dating to last season.

The top-seeded Sunbirds (33-0) trailed 24-21 in the third set before winning five straight points -- including three straight kills by Michelle Johnson and a block by Shilling -- to seal the victory over the Queen Bees, who won the Midwest Collegiate Conference title and had won 20 of their past 21 matches.

"We had a lapse in Game 3 and you can't do that," Janzen said. "Teams are here because they play great defense and never give up. That's what happened."

Lauren Albertson, a 6-foot-3 freshman out of Clovis West, sat out Tuesday's match with a hip injury and Karlie Houston stepped in as the replacement. The tournament covers five days to reach the title match, and Janzen said it was necessary to rest Albertson for the bigger picture.

Fresno Pacific continues the 24-team tournament against a familiar opponent, Point Loma Nazarene, at 11 a.m. today. The teams played twice in the Golden State Athletic Conference, with the Sunbirds winning 3-1 in San Diego and 3-0 at home.

The Sea Lions (21-11) knocked off 12th-seeded Olivet Nazarene 19-25, 31-29, 26-24, 23-25, 15-13 in pool play Tuesday.

The top two teams from the six pools advance to a single-elimination format on Friday. The championship match is Saturday.