The Whitworth volleyball team split a pair of matches last weekend, winning against Willamette and falling to Lewis & Clark to begin the second half of league play. The weekend involved two thrilling five-setters, and two season records as a team. Whitworth completed the season sweep of Willamette (25-23, 25-19, 18-25, 23-25, 18-16), winning in the same five-set fashion as the first matchup with Willamette.
Whitworth got off to a 2-0 lead in the match, winning the first two sets thanks to 31 kills and only eight errors. But like the first matchup with Willamette, the Pirates gave up that lead in the third and fourth sets, losing 18-25 and 23-25.
It looked as though Willamette had kept its momentum going from the third and fourth sets as the Bearcats took a 4-0 lead to begin the fifth. However, a pair of kills from sophomore outside hitter Nicole Leonard helped spark the Pirates in staving off the Bearcats’ comeback by winning the extended fifth set 18-16. Leonard attributed the Pirates’ composure to their belief and confidence in their abilities as a team.
“Even though the momentum was against us at the end of that game, we had confidence,” Leonard said. “When we [play together], we have confidence in each other to get the job done. That’s what makes us play our heart out, when it’s for each other.”
Along with the victory, the Pirates broke multiple team and individual season records. Whitworth tallied 72 kills as a team, breaking the previous high of 68. Seventy team assists broke their record of 61. Sophomore setter Maddye Dinsmore dished out a personal best 68 assists, smashing her previous high of 56, and Leonard raised her season-high for kills to 20, breaking her previous best of 17.
“I was only able to achieve my season-high because of the team,” Leonard said. “They were playing almost flawlessly for me to be able to do my job. The passes and sets were on point.”
“There were times when our offense looked unstoppable,” head coach Kati Bodecker said. “We did a good job of covering our hitters so they could swing hard and aggressive.”
Parallels from the first half of league play continued as Whitworth lost to Lewis & Clark in another five-set match (25-23, 22-25, 17-25, 25-23, 15-13).
Whitworth fell behind 8-1 to begin the first set until a timeout shifted momentum in the Pirates’ favor.
A kill from senior outside hitter Jalana White out of the timeout began a 6-0 Whitworth run to pull within one point at 8-7. The set would stay close after, but tied at 23-23, the Pioneers won consecutive points to win the set.
The Pirates took the second set in a back-and-forth battle, with neither team leading by more than two until a pair of kills from White and an ace from Leonard gave the Pirates a 23-19 advantage. Later, two more kills from White ended the set at 25-21, tying the match at 1-1.
The momentum continued for Whitworth into the third set as they took a 5-0 lead following another ace from Leonard. The Pirates would extend that lead to 10-1 and would cruise to a 25-18 third set win, taking a 2-1 lead.
The fourth set was the closest of the match with neither team able to lead by more than two points until at 19-19, a 5-1 run from the Pioneers gave them a 24-20 lead. A kill from Lewis & Clark then forced Whitworth’s seventh five-setter in 10 conference matches.
“We are a very mental team. We have the skills to be a conference championship team but we struggle to finish,” White said. “Many five-set matches come down to luck. Against Willamette, it was on our side. But Lewis & Clark had the luck last [on Saturday].”
An ace from senior setter Anna Buck gave Whitworth the lead, 8-4, to begin the fifth set. But a Pioneer run put the Pirates in a 13-11 hole. The Pirates tied it back up at 13 after a kill from freshman outside hitter Brenna Bruil, but a kill and an ace from the Pioneers finished the match.
White led the Pirates with a game-high 21 kills and Dinsmore added 52 assists and 24 digs. Senior middle hitter Briauna Stadeli had a game-high seven blocks to go with her nine kills and two aces.
The Pirates will try to finish off the season sweeps of George Fox and Pacific Oct. 25-26 this week in the Fieldhouse.
James Silberman Staff Writer
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