SPOKANE, Wash. – The Whitworth volleyball team earned its first Northwest Conference win of the season with a 25-19, 25-21, 9-25, 25-23 win over the Willamette Bearcats in the Whitworth Fieldhouse on Saturday evening.
With the win, Whitworth improves to 5-6 overall and 1-3 in the NWC. Willamette falls to 2-9 overall and 0-4 in conference play.
"Offensively it wasn't any better than the other night, but energy-wise and defensively it was much better than where we were on Wednesday night," Whitworth head coach Steve Rupe said. "We're hanging in there. We're getting better."
The Pirates got on the scoreboard first to open the night, but the Bearcats would not go down easily. The set had 13 ties and eight lead changes, but after an 18-18 score, Whitworth was able to pull ahead on a kill by junior Briauna Stadeli and build on the lead. Willamette would get the ball back after a Whitworth attack error, but Stadeli and junior Jalana White joined up for a block to put the ball back in Whitworth's hands. Freshman Nicole Leonard had a kill to end the set.
Whitworth carried the momentum over into the second set, with the Bucs hitting .114 and getting aces from junior Anna Buck and sophomore Katie Adams. The third set was reminiscent of Wednesday night, with the Pirates hitting a -.081 and having just six kills as a team, which was as many as Willamette's Carly Hargrave.
The fourth set got the crowd on its feet, as the Pirates came out on the attack. The Bucs earned the first point on a kill by Leonard. In another close match, this time with 10 ties and six lead changes, the team fed off of the energy from the crowd. Despite falling behind, the ladies fought their way back and tied the game at 17-all. The teams would be tied three more times before Leonard would come up with two big kills. A kill by junior Abi Hedlund sealed the set victory and give the game victory to the Pirates.
Nicole Leonard led the Pirates with 14 kills and 14 digs. Jalana White had seven kills, while Abi Hedlund had six for the Bucs. Junior Whitney Santos had 19 digs for Whitworth.
Carly Hargrave led the Bearcats with 13 kills and a hitting percentage of .385. Shannon Waltz had 10 kills and Nicole Mertens had 10 digs for Willamette.
"Nicole(Leonard)—for a freshman to come in and swing like that at the end of the match, with no fear, there's not too many people that can do that," Rupe said. "Nobody else could swing like that at the end of the match, but she could. Two big kills right at the end. Whitney (Santos) was also very solid for us defensively in the back row."
Next up, Whitworth will hit the road, playing at Lewis & Clark on Friday, September 28 at 7:00 pm PDT.