SPOKANE, Wash. – The Whitworth University volleyball team faces a very busy week with three road matches over five days. The long road trip begins with Wednesday night's non-conference match at Lewis-Clark State College in Lewiston, Idaho (6:00 pm). The Pirates will return to Northwest Conference action with contests at George Fox on Friday (7:00 pm) and at Pacific (Ore.) on Saturday (5:00 pm).
Watch the Whitworth volleyball schedule for live links to this weekend's matches.
The Pirates: Whitworth opened its Northwest Conference schedule with a pair of home victories last weekend over Willamette and Lewis & Clark. The Pirates improved to 8-3 overall.
The NWC slate looked like it might begin inauspiciously as visiting Willamette earned a 25-22 win in the first set, then rallied to tie the second set 24-24 before Whitworth pulled it out 28-26. The Pirates then won the third and fourth sets 25-15 and 25-20 to claim the match. Jessica Schmautz had 15 kills and 16 digs to lead the Bucs in both categories. Emiko Kahler and Lauren Budde contributed a dozen kills each, while Erin White dished out 49 assists. Iris Tikhonov was in on six blocks (1 solo, 5 assists). Whitworth outhit Willamette .160 – .099 to claim its fifth straight win in the series.
Things went much smoother for the Pirates in Saturday's match against Lewis & Clark as Whitworth rolled to a 25-19, 25-18, 25-23 victory. The Bucs hit .210 as a team, compared to .157 for the Pioneers. Schmautz had 11 kills and Budde finished with 10 to lead the offense. Addy Woolery came up with a dozen digs, while Madison Douglas had four blocks (2 solo, 2 assists) to lead the defensive efforts. Laina Damon was dynamic behind the line with six of Whitworth's season-high 12 service aces. The Pirates have won the last nine contests between the teams.
NWC Leaders: Only three 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 (13.03), assists per set (12.18), digs per set (16.64) and, most importantly, points per set (16.7). The Bucs are second in service aces per set (2.15).
Individually, Schmautz tops the NWC in kills per set (3.69) and in total kills (144), while White leads in assists per set (10.69). Woolery ranks fifth in the NWC in digs per set (4.33) and Kiana Vandaele is fifth in aces per set (0.56).
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 641 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 and has returned to form, once again leading the NWC in assists.
A Budding Star: Lauren Budde became 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. In 2018 Budde currently ranks sixth in the NWC in kills per set (2.89) and she has the highest hitting percentage among Whitworth's top three attackers (.238).
Sharp Schmautz: Jessica Schmautz has become a force to be reckoned with in the NWC this season. She currently leads the league in kills per set (3.69), total kills (144) and total attacks (386). She also tops the conference in points per set (4.1) and total points (161.5). 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: George Fox University began the season 6-1, but the Bruins have slipped to 6-4 heading into the weekend. GFU lost its NWC opener last Wednesday, 3-1 at Pacific (Ore.). The Bruins went on to lose 3-2 at Puget Sound on Saturday. However, George Fox remains undefeated (5-0) at home this season. Senior OH Danyle Dupray leads her team in kills per set (2.49) and in service aces (20). Sophomore OH Liv Alexander adds 2.21 kills per set. Whitworth defeated George 3-0 in both matches last season and the Pirates have won 11 consecutive matches in the series.
Pacific University comes into the weekend 7-4 overall and 1-1 in the NWC heading into Friday night's match against Whitman. The Boxers followed last Wednesday's win over George Fox with a hard-fought 3-2 loss at defending champion Pacific Lutheran on Friday. Pacific is potent offensively, leading the league in team hitting percentage (.211). Junior MB Milana Ivkovic averages 2.90 kills and 0.56 blocks per set. Junior OH Karlee Duncan, a second team All-NWC honoree in 2017, leads the team in kills per set (3.00). Whitworth swept Pacific in a pair of close matches in 2017, winning 3-1 at home and 3-2 on the road. The Pirates have won the last five contests between the schools.
Coming Up: Whitworth will return home to host Puget Sound and Pacific Lutheran on September 28th and 29th.