ORANGE — If they played a best out of 21, you could stop the match after the odd sets and get a different winner every time.
That's how even the Occidental College and Chapman University women's volleyball teams were on Friday night in their first ever SCIAC matchup, and how close they figure to be come playoff time in November.
But despite a string of clutch plays from Logan Boyer-Hayse (Boulder, Colo.) and a balanced offensive attack, the No. 23 Tigers fell short in five, losing to their newest conference rival on the road, 23-25, 25-20, 25-20, 20-25, 15-11.
With the match on the line in Game 4, and her team trailing 17-16, Boyer-Hayse put away five of Oxy's next nine points during a 9-3 run that sent the match to a fifth game.
"We had a great comeback in the fourth game after being down and after losing the two previous games," Occidental coach Heather Collins said. "Logan led the way with aggressive play."
In Game 5, the 2011 AVCA First Team All-American had back-to-back kills to tie the score at 11 before Chapman strung together four consecutive points for the victory.
Boyer-Hayse finished with a match-high 22 kills.
Ashleigh Gideon and Val Geiger each had 20 for the Panthers (7-2, 1-0 SCIAC).
Both teams made the NCAA Division III playoffs last season and although Chapman is the new kid on the block in their inaugural year in the conference, they showed while they're likely to be with Oxy and a handful of other teams, close to the top of the conference standings in November.
"Chapman is a great team," Collins said. "They play with a purpose and are very scrappy defensively.
"Once their middle hitter became involved they were very hard to stop. We have to find a way to play aggressive consistently."
It was exciting from start to finish with each team enjoying advantages and mini victories.
Oxy chased Chapman for most of the first set until they went on a 7-1 run to close and take a 1-0 lead in the match. With Gann serving, Aly Fritz (South Pasadena) and Sarah Beene (Gilbert, Ariz.) came up with a huge block that tied the game at 22. Then the Panthers made three errors in a row to close the set.
Chapman jumped out to a quick lead in the Game 2, doubling Oxy on the scoreboard, 12-6.
The Tigers started to chip away. Rose put away two points and Oxy trailed by just one, 16-15. But Gideon had three kills to spark a 9-5 run for the Panthers that evened the match score at one game apiece.
In Game 3, the opposite was the case, but the Panthers still came out on top. Oxy led by one or two until Laura Posada's kill gave Chapman a 17-16 lead and the Panthers held Oxy off for another 25-20 win.
Playing from behind was the theme for the Tigers again in Game 4. The Tigers never led, until Boyer-Hayse put away three-straight points to give Oxy a 20-18 lead. Then Madyson Cassidy (Arcadia) added an ace and Gann finished off the Oxy comeback with two kills to close the game and even the set score, 2-2.
It looked like the momentum from Oxy's win in Game 4 would carry them through the fifth set, as they jumped out to a 3-0. But Chapman rallied for five unanswered to take a 5-3 lead and then again with a 4-0 run to break an 11-11 tie and win the match.
Beene dished out 47 assists filling in for injured Oxy setter Jessie Altman (La Jolla).
Oxy continues a three-match road stretch to open SCIAC play, at 5 p.m. on Saturday at Caltech.