Gauchos take fifth in SAC Tourney

Cerise Ostrem

Gauchos Sarah Martin fires one of her 13 kills past Chaffey defenders in Saddleback's second match of Saturday's tournament.

Gauchos Sarah Martin fires one of her 13 kills past Chaffey defenders in Saddleback’s second match of Saturday’s tournament.

SANTA ANA, Calif. – While other Saddleback students spent their Saturday morning sleeping in, the Gauchos spent theirs working out.

From 8 a.m. onward, the Saddleback squad battled its way through the Santa Ana Tournament to finish 2-2 and tie for fifth place.

“I couldn’t be more proud of the way the girls played,” said Gauchos head coach Carmen Stratton. “They showed heart and a competitive spirit.”

The Gauchos took their first three matches to three games. The only matches their opponents saw stretched to three were when they faced Saddleback.

“What that means is that we were working during practice,” said Gauchos outside hitter Paulina Swiakowski. “We were in better shape than any of the teams there.”

The Gauchos opened tournament play against Glendale College. After the Vaqueros squeezed out a 31-29 win in game one, Saddleback bounced back to knot the match at two with a 30-27 win. The Vaqueros took game three, 30-28.

Freshman Jennifer Walsh led the Gauchos in the match with 10 kills, nine assists and three blocks. Sophomore Hannah McElroy added five kills and five aces.

The Gauchos bounced back from the disappointing loss in an early afternoon meeting with Chaffey College. After dropping the first game to the Panthers, 24-30, the Gauchos pounded out the next two, 30-14, 30-22, to progress in pool play.

McElroy dominated the match with 17 kills and two aces. Martin added 13 kills.

Saddleback bumped itself back up to the championship pool with a 2-1 win over No. 1 seed Mt. San Antonio College, 30-27, 19-30, 30-27.

“It was the biggest oomph for us during the whole tournament,” Swiakowski said.

Walsh finished with 12 kills and two blocks. Sophomore Sarah Martin added another dozen kills.

The Gauchos run in the playoff pool was cut short at the hands two-time defending state champion Orange Coast College. The Pirates defeated the Gauchos 30-14.

“People went in playing as if they all ready lost,” Swiakowski said.

With the 2-2 finish, the Gauchos improved their overall record to 4-3.

“Hopefully this will be the start to a new beginning for us,” Stratton said.

The Gauchos will head south Wednesday to take on San Diego City College. The non-conference match begins at 6 p.m.