SPOKANE, Wash. – A big weekend for the Whitworth University volleyball team and the Northwest Conference approaches. The Pirates will visit Puget Sound, the one NWC team that has beaten them this season, on Friday at 7:00 pm. Whitworth follows that with a showdown at 17th-ranked Pacific Lutheran on Saturday at 7:00 pm. If the Bucs can win both, they will clinch the 2018 NWC championship.
Watch the Whitworth volleyball schedule for live links to this week's matches.
The Pirates: Whitworth (17-6 overall, 11-1 NWC) won a pair of NWC contests at home last weekend to hold onto first place in the standings, one game ahead of PLU. Puget Sound and Pacific (Ore.) are tied for third place at 8-4.
The Pirates worked hard to defeat George Fox 25-20, 25-23, 23-25, 25-17 on Friday night. The Bruins forced Whitworth to a fifth set in the teams' earlier meeting in Oregon. However, Jessica Schmautz, as she has done much of the season, carried the Bucs to a victory with a career-high 25 kills. She hit .467 with only four errors in 45 attempts. Emiko Kahler added 14 kills and hit .345. Erin White dished 53 assists, while Laina Damon served four aces and led the Pirates with 15 digs. Whitworth hit .242 as a team to claim a 13th consecutive win over George Fox.
The Pirates swept a good Pacific (Ore.) squad on Saturday night, winning 25-21, 25-18, 25-22. Whitworth had to rally from four points behind in the final stanza to complete the sweep. The Bucs hit .264 and served eight aces. Schmautz was the only Pirate player in double figures with 14 kills. Lauren Budde had eight kills and hit .636 with one error in 11 attacks. Kahler had nine kills, nine digs and three service aces. The sweep was Whitworth's second of the season against the Boxers and the Pirates have now won seven straight matches in the series between the schools.
Schmautz Wins Again: The Northwest Conference may want to think about naming its Volleyball Offensive Student-Athlete of the Week award after Jessica Schmautz this season. After all, Schmautz is the winner of the award for the fifth time of the season this week. She averaged 5.57 kills per set in two Pirate victories and hit .380 over two matches, committing only nine errors in 79 attacks. The senior has over 100 kills more than any other NWC player this season. Schmautz was previously the NWC Offensive Player of the Week on September 3, September 24, Oct. 1 and October 15. In addition to Lauren Budde on Oct. 8, the NWC Offensive Player of the Week has gone to a Pirate six out of eight possible times in 2018.
Going Down to the Wire: Whitworth (11-1) leads Pacific Lutheran (10-2) by a single match heading into the final two weeks of the NWC's regular season. If the Pirates win twice this weekend, they clinch the championship. If they lose twice, they likely fall back to second place. If they split, then the NWC's tiebreaking procedures may come into play.
NWC Leaders: Nearing the end of the season, Whitworth continues to stand atop the Northwest Conference statistics in some key categories. The Pirates lead the league in overall kills per set (13.34 – 21st in NCAA DIII out of 429 schools), assists per set (12.52 – 15th in DIII), hitting percentage (.213) and points per set (16.7).
Individually, Schmautz tops the NWC in kills per set (4.23 – 17th in DIII) and in total kills (351 – 28th), while White leads in assists per set (10.93 – 9th in DIII). Budde is sixth in the league in kills per set (2.78) and fifth in hitting percentage (.275). Woolery ranks seventh in the NWC in digs per set (4.18) and fifth in total digs (322).
Sharp Schmautz: Jessica Schmautz is making a strong bid for NWC Player of the Year. She currently leads the league in kills per set (4.23), total kills (351) and total attacks (832) by wide margins. She also tops the conference in points per set (4.7) and total points (386.5). The NWC has selected Schmautz as its Offensive Player of the Week five times in 2018.
The Leader: Emiko Kahler 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 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 758 and counting. Despite battling injuries early in 2018, Kahler is averaging 2.52 kills per set.
Erin's Back: Erin White is back at it. She is leading the league in assists per set (10.93) and has increased her offensive production to 1.2 points per set. She led Whitworth to the 2016 Northwest Conference championship by leading the league in assists per set (10.22) and 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 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 among NWC leaders in kills per set (2.78) and she has the highest hitting percentage among Whitworth's top three attackers (.275).
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: The University of Puget Sound comes into Friday's match 11-9 overall and 8-4 in the NWC. The Loggers have dropped out of a tie for first place by losing three straight matches and need to turn things around quickly. They fell at home to Lewis & Clark in five sets last Friday. Puget Sound continues to lead the NWC in service aces per set (2.21) and rank second in blocks per set (1.93). Sophomore OH Alli Reviglio is the do-everything player for UPS, averaging 2.23 kills, 2.7 digs, 0.5 service aces and 0.4 blocks per set. Sophomore middle hitter Melanie Siacotos adds 2.13 kills per set and ranks third in the NWC in blocks per set (0.97). Puget Sound handed Whitworth its only conference loss of 2018 so far on September 28th, taking the fifth set 15-9 in Spokane.
Pacific Lutheran is 17-3 overall and 10-2 in the NWC heading into Friday night's match against Whitman. Since losing at Pacific (Ore.) on October 12th, the Lutes have dominated three straight opponents with three straight sweeps, including a 25-16, 25-9, 25-18 whitewash at Puget Sound last Wednesday. The Lutes are the best blocking team in the NWC by a wide margin, averaging 2.70 blocks per set. Senior MB Mackenzie Harris (1.34) and junior MB Danielle Skibiel (1.08) rank first and second, respectively, in the league in blocks per set. Harris is hitting .375 and averaging 2.46 kills per set. Whitworth played one of its best all-around matches of the season on September 29th in a 3-0 win over the Lutes in Spokane. Schmautz had 17 kills and Addy Woolery had 22 digs in the sweep.
Coming Up: Whitworth will finish the regular season with a match at Whitman on Halloween night (6:00 pm) and a match against Linfield at home on Saturday, November 3rd (6:00 pm).