Whitworth Unable To Upset No. 14 PLU

SPOKANE, Wash. –  The Whitworth volleyball team won two sets but it was not enough to defeat No. 14 Pacific Lutheran University and the Lutes avoided the upset, winning 17-25, 25-15, 25-20, 20-25, 15-11 on Friday evening in the Whitworth Fieldhouse. Whitworth falls to 6-10 overall, 2-7 in Northwest Conference play, while PLU improves to 15-2, 9-0 in conference play.

The Bucs came out fired up in the first set and never let PLU get its offense going. PLU had a -.095 hitting percentage for the first set, while Whitworth hit .118. Junior Kristine Kardell had four kills and no errors on five attacks for a .800 hitting percentage to lead the Pirates.

"We really got their attention after the first set," Whitworth head coach Steve Rupe said. "Our goal was to see how good we could be now that we are healthy. We wanted to have good energy consistently throughout the entire match and we maintained it."

PLU rebounded in the second set, hitting .219. The Pirates had three attack errors to start off the set before a kill by Kristine Kardell got Whitworth on the board. Junior Jalana White came up with five kills and had just one error on 11 attacks to lead the Pirates in the set.

After two lopsided sets, the third set was much closer and competitive, with five ties and four lead changes. PLU got an early 3-0 lead, but Whitworth came charging back, taking advantage of a Lute service error and following it with a block by Kristine Kardell and Jalana White. An ace from freshman Nicole Leonard tied the score at 3-3. The teams traded points for most of the set before a Pirate ball handling error gave the Lutes a 15-14 lead. PLU took the small opening and ran with it, building a lead that was too much for Whitworth.

"I thought the third set and on were very evenly played by both squads," Rupe said.

In another back-and-forth close set, the teams traded points seven times in the fourth set. The Pirates had a slight edge, hitting .146 to PLU's .024 for the set. Whitworth pulled ahead after a PLU attack error, and the Pirates built a three point lead before a Bethany Huston kill pulled the Lutes within one, 19-18. Freshman Nicole Leonard and Kristine Kardell had back-to-back kills that re-established the Whitworth lead. Jalana White came up with a big kill that gave the Pirates the fourth set victory and forced a fifth set against the Lutes, something that has only happened three times this season for PLU.

Whitworth jumped ahead early in the fifth set but a kill from Haley Urdahl tied the score 6-6, shifting the momentum over to PLU.  The Lutes put together a run and led 11-7 before Jalana White came up with another kill to cut the lead to three. However, Whitworth was unable to overcome the deficit and a kill from Bethany Huston sealed the victory for the Lutes.

"We played a very complete match tonight," Rupe said. "Whitney (Santos) and Nicole (Leonard) were outstanding in the back row. Offensively, Jalana (White) carried us all night. She came up with big kills right when we needed them."

White led the Pirates with a game-high 17 kills, 12 digs, two solo blocks and an ace. Kristine Kardell and Nicole Leonard had 13 and 12 kills, respectively, for the Bucs while junior Whitney Santos had 23 digs.

PLU was led by Amy Wooten, who had 14 kills and hit .206 for the night. Kelsey Pacolt and Bethany Huston each had 10 kills for the Lutes and Blair Bjorkman had 28 digs.

Whitworth returns to action tomorrow night when the Pirates host Puget Sound at 5:00 pm PDT in the Whitworth Fieldhouse.

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