By Alli Kieckbusch, Student Writer
SPOKANE, Wash. – Whitworth University started the 2018 Northwest Conference volleyball season with a close 22-25, 28-26, 25-15, 25-20 win against visiting Willamette University Friday night in the Fieldhouse.
The Pirates (7-3 overall) beat the Bearcats (3-6) to begin the league season. They move to 1-0 in conference, putting Willamette 0-1.
The Bucs hit .160 as a team while Willamette finished .099. Whitworth also led the Bearcats in assists (56) and service aces (7).
The Bearcats looked prime for an upset by claiming the first set. They outhit the Pirates .234 - .087 and scored the final three points of the stanza.
The Bucs held on to win the second in a close finish. Jessica Schmautz had the final 3 kills of the set to clinch their set win.
The Pirates opened the third set with a 7-0 lead. Willamette rallied to within 16-14 before Whitworth pulled away for its easiest set win of the match.
The Bucs had another bit early lead (10-3) in the fourth and final stanza. But they had to hold off a strong rally to clinch the win against the Bearcats.
Schmautz finished with a game high 15 kills, with Lauren Budde and Emiko Kahler added twelve apiece. Erin White contributed 49 assists and four service aces. Schmautz and Laina Damon got 16 digs each, while Iris Tikhonov was in on six blocks to lead the defense.
Natalie Klotz had 13 kills for Willamette. Kendall Fox and Jennifer Lane added ten kills each.
The Bucs will continue conference play Saturday night against Lewis & Clark at 7:00 pm in the Whitworth Fieldhouse.