SPOKANE, Wash. – The Whitworth Pirates will open the 2018 Northwest Conference volleyball schedule with a pair of important matches at home on Friday and Saturday. They are also the first home matches of the year for Whitworth. The Pirates host Willamette University on Friday night at 7:00 pm. Unbeaten Lewis & Clark College visits on Saturday at 6:00 pm.
Watch the Whitworth volleyball schedule for live links to this weekend's matches.
The Pirates: Whitworth went 2-3 at the prestigious Emory National Tournament last week in Atlanta. The Bucs played competitively against a bunch of teams in contention to qualify for the 2018 NCAA Division III tournament.
After flying across the country, Whitworth opened against nationally-ranked Berry (Ga.) and it showed in a 25-16, 25-11, 25-15 loss to the Vikings. The Pirates never got on track offensively, hitting only 0.081 as a team, while committing nine service errors with no service aces. No Whitworth player reached double figures in kills, but Lauren Budde had a solid match with eight kills and only one error in 14 attempts for a .500 hitting percentage.
The Pirates rebounded to defeat Transylvania University 23-25, 25-22, 27-25, 25-20. The Pioneers are one of the favorites in the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference (HCAC), but Whitworth rebounded from an opening set loss to claim the win. Jessica Schmautz led the Bucs with 12 kills, while Emiko Kahler had 10 kills, three block assists and two service aces. Addy Woolery had 17 digs.
Whitworth came up just short against Otterbein University, the defending Ohio Athletic Conference champions, in Saturday's opener. Schmautz and Budde had 13 kills each, but the Cardinals pulled out a 26-24, 25-22, 20-25, 27-25 victory. Erin White dished 46 assists, while Iris Tikhonov was in on six blocks for the defense.
The Pirates posted a strong showing against 7th-ranked, and host, Emory University before falling 25-17, 22-25, 25-20, 26-24. Schmautz again led the team with 16 kills and two aces with Budde adding 11 kills and three blocks. Laina Damon led the team with 15 digs. Emory was a national quarterfinalist in 2017.
Whitworth closed the tournament with a 25-17, 25-18, 25-17 sweep of Oglethorpe University in a match that saw every Pirate player get playing time. Schmautz had 15 kills and hit .522 in the match while posting 13 digs. She was the only Whitworth player in double figures for kills or points. White totaled 30 assists.
NWC Leaders: Only two weeks into the season and Whitworth has made its mark atop the Northwest Conference statistics in several key categories. The Pirates lead the league in kills per set (12.69), assists per set (11.81) and in digs per set (16.44). However, Whitworth also leads in a couple of not-so-good categories as well. The Bucs are going to have to clean up their serving (86 total service errors) and passing (62 reception errors).
Individually, Schmautz tops the NWC in kills per set (3.69), while White leads in assists per set (10.44). Woolery ranks fourth in the NWC in digs per set (4.46).
Back to the Top?: Whitworth won three consecutive NWC crowns from 2014 through 2016 before falling to second place in 2017. The Pirates are hoping to return to the top of the standings in 2018, but they must overcome defending champion PLU and a rapidly improving team from Pacific (Ore.). Puget Sound is also a traditional contender for the title.
The Leader: Emiko Kahler has established herself as a dominant player in the NWC over her first two seasons. She was the 2016 NWC Freshman of the Year and earned a second straight first team All-NWC honor in 2017. She has averaged 3.04 kills per set over her first two seasons, as well as 3.07 digs per set. She is well on her way to 1,000 kills in her career with 551 and counting.
Erin's Back: Erin White led Whitworth to the 2016 Northwest Conference championship by leading the league in assists per set (10.22) while averaging 1.1 points per set. She received first team All-NWC recognition. White sat out 2017 to focus on her nursing major. She is a senior academically, but a junior in eligibility.
A Budding Star: Lauren Budde established herself as one of the more dangerous and athletic weapons in the NWC last season, averaging 2.36 and 0.70 blocks per set. Capable of hitting over many blockers, Budde received honorable mention All-NWC consideration.
Sharp Schmautz: Jessica Schmautz is establishing herself as a force to be reckoned with in the NWC this season. She currently leads the league in kills per set (3.69), total kills (118) and total attacks (310). She also tops the conference in points per set (4.2) and total points (133). Schmautz was selected as the first NWC Offensive Player of the Week in 2018 for her season-opening weekend at the Oregon Trail Classic.
The Coach: Kati Bodecker, 91-43 heading into her sixth season guiding the Pirates, is a three-time Northwest Conference Coach of the Year after leading Whitworth to three straight NWC titles from 2014 through 2016. Bodecker also directed the Pirates to three consecutive appearances in the NCAA Division III tournament. In 2013 she coached the Bucs to a 15-13 record, becoming the first Whitworth volleyball coach to post a winning record in her first season since Margaret Campbell in 1990. She previously had been the head coach at Priest River High School, leading the Spartans to five state tournament appearances, including a runner-up finish in 2012. She was a four-year starter at the University of Idaho, helping lead the Vandals to back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances as a sophomore and junior.
The Opponents: Willamette University comes into the weekend 3-5. After opening the season 3-1, the Bearcats dropped all four matches at a tournament in Southern California last weekend. Willamette has served the ball well this season and rank third in the NWC in service aces per set (2.25). Freshman Natalie Klotz has not played like one so far. She leads her team in points per set, averaging 2.67 kills, 0.54 blocks and 0.42 aces. Last season Whitworth swept Willamette 3-0 in both matches. The Pirates have won the last four contests between the teams.
Lewis & Clark comes into the weekend as the hottest team in the NWC. The Pioneers are 7-0 heading into a Friday night match at Whitman. L&C traveled to Virginia last weekend and went 3-0, including a 3-2 win over previously unbeaten Southern Virginia and a 3-2 win over host Washington & Lee. Senior MB Kortney Meyer has been a force in the NWC for four seasons. She currently is averaging 3.22 kills per set while hitting .314. She adds 0.96 blocks per set. Last season Whitworth earned a pair of 3-0 victories over the Pioneers. The Pirates have won the last eight matches between the schools.
Coming Up: Whitworth will play three matches next week, beginning with a non-conference contest at Lewis-Clark State on Wednesday. Then the Bucs travel to Oregon for matches at George Fox and Pacific on Friday and Saturday.