LAS CRUCES, N.M.—CSU Bakersfield withstood a furious Seattle U comeback to defeat the Redhawks 3-2 in the first round of the Western Athletic Conference volleyball tournament Thursday night in the Pan American Center.

CSUB started out fast, taking a 15-6 lead into the first set media timeout. The Roadrunners would hold the Redhawks to .000 hitting (9-9-39) in the opener and take a 1-0 lead with a 25-15 victory.

Seattle U jumped out to a quick start in the second by scoring the first five points of the set. The Roadrunners responded with the next three before the teams traded points. At 6-4, CSUB took advantage of back-to-back SU hitting errors to tie the set and went ahead on a Sydney Haynes kill.

A Kerry Lane hitting error put the ‘Runners up by two. Lane and Maja Stojanovic blocked a CSUB hitting attempt to get the ball back, but a service error put the serve back into the Roadrunner hands.  Grasso’s ace gave the ‘Runners a three-point lead and forced Seattle U to call timeout.  CSUB scored four of the next six points to create a five-point advantage. The Roadrunners would be up 17-10 before the Redhawks scored three straight. Seattle U couldn’t keep the momentum up as Matea Mamic committed a hitting error that was followed by an Addy Peters service ace. SU called timeout, trailing 19-13.

The timeout worked as the Redhawks scored five of the next six to whittle the CSUB advantage down to two and resulted in a CSUB timeout. Marina Sanches and Katarina Marinkovic traded kills. At 21-19, Grasso committed a hitting error. Grasso came right back for a kill that was followed by a Sanches kill. Marinkovic’s hitting mistake gave CSUB three set points. Stojanovic staved off one set point with a kill. The Roadrunners would take a 2-0 lead on a Cecilla Wu service error 25-22.

Seattle U again started fast, scoring the first five points of the third set. Seattle controlled the play at the net and would take a 15-12 lead into the media timeout. A pair of Sanches’ kills out of the timeout keyed a 4-0 run that gave CSUB the lead for the first time in the set. Seattle U called timeout and tied the match when the Roadrunners committed a hitting error.

At 17-17, SU posted two in a row to get back in front. The squads would trade each of the next eight points to maintain the Redhawks’ two-point advantage. CSUB would get the lead down to one late in the third set. But a pair of unforced CSUB errors would give Seattle U the victory and would send the match into the fourth set 25-23.

At 4-4 in the fourth set, Seattle U ran off three consecutive points which resulted in a CSUB timeout. Kills by Alexandria Djordjevic and Marina Sanches out of the timeout cut into the SU advantage. The Redhawks rallied, scoring the next five. Seattle U would never lose the lead in the fourth, tying the match 25-18.

Grasso opened the fifth with a kill. Kory White’s hitting error made it 2-0 before the Roadrunners went back to Grasso for a kill and a 3-0 lead. The Redhawks broke the seal with a Mamic block on Grasso. A Grasso hitting error kept the ball in the Redhawks’ hands. Marinkovic’s hitting mistake provided a sideout to the Roadrunners at 4-2. A second Grasso hitting error created a 4-3 set.

White’s service error put CSUB back on serve. The ‘Runners kept the ball when Shae Harris committed a ball handling error. CSUB went up five after a SU hitting error and a Grasso service ace. Harris’ bad set pushed the lead to 9-3 in favor the Roadrunners.  Another Grasso ace led to a Katie Dunbar-Lowe kill and a 11-3 advantage. Marinkovic’s kill cut off the CSUB run before Lane’s service error returned the ball to the Roadrunners. Back-to-back Marinkovic hitting errors earned the Roadrunners 10 match points. A ‘Runner hitting error kept Seattle U alive. CSUB went back to Grasso who responded with her 17th kill of the match, sending the ‘Runners into the semifinals.

“I told our team that we worked too hard to get here to lay down,” said CSUB director of volleyball Giovana Melo. “We didn’t play well in the third and fourth sets and I said let’s go be ourselves and win. I am so proud of our team!”

Grasso completed her 15th double-double of the year with 19 digs. The 5-6 outside hitter added four service aces and three blocks. Roadrunner setter Fabiana Andrade charted her sixth double-double of the year with 22 assists and 11 digs. CSUB libero Jocelyn Rodriguez tied her career high with 25 digs. Peters put up 10 digs and two service aces. Marinkovic tallied a double-double of 15 kills and 10 digs to pace the Redhawks. Harris, the SU setter, recorded 20 assists, 18 digs, and four blocks.

CSUB ‘s (14-14) victory was the 12th in a row in the all-time series against the Redhawks (13-15), dating back to the 2011 season. The Roadrunners, the third seed, advances to the semifinals to play the No. 2 seed, Utah Valley (15-13), Friday night at 5 p.m. (MT).

“You can’t take any team lightly at this time of the year,” Melo said. “It’s an important we rest and be prepared for tomorrow against Utah Valley.”