Whitworth volleyball split games at home last weekend with a loss to the Pacific Boxers and a victory against the Linfield Wildcats. Whitworth started out slow and lost the first set against Pacific 25-15. The Pirates came back ready for the second set, doubling the number of digs and nearly tripling the number of kills in the set, giving Whitworth the advantage and a 25-13 win.
“Their outsides were their strength,” head coach Steve Rupe said. “You have to shut them down, and we did at times and we didn’t at other times.”
Pacific started off the third set with a 4-0 run, but a kill from junior outside hitter Jalana White ended the run and began Whitworth’s comeback. Back-to-back kills from freshman outside hitter Nicole Leonard followed by a service ace by junior outside hitter Abi Hedlund gave Whitworth an 11-10 lead, and Whitworth never looked back. The Bucs kept the momentum and won 25-20, giving the Pirates a 2-1 advantage.
The fourth set was the closest of the night, with 11 ties and five lead changes throughout the game. The last lead change came at the very end when the Boxers fought back to win the fourth game 25-23, which forced a fifth set.
Pacific took the first point of the last set and lead 8-3 before Whitworth started to come back. Kills from White, Leonard and Hedlund brought the Pirates to within two points of the Boxers in the final points of the game, but Pacific managed to get the match point and win 15-13.
“We are so close and I think that just motivates us even more,” said junior middle blocker Briauna Stadeli, who finished the night with seven kills.
Leonard finished the night with 20 kills and 12 digs, White had 14 kills and five digs, freshman setter Maddye Dinsmore had 21 digs and senior libero Whitney Santos had 15 digs.
Whitworth played another five set match the next day against Linfield and this time they came out on top, 3-2. Rupe said that the goal going into the Linfield game was to build on what they started and to play with passion and energy from start to finish. Whitworth did just that and won the first set of the game 25-14.
“It was our goal to win the first set and be really energetic,” White said. “We came out strong and that was really important to us.”
Linfield put up a fight in both the second and third sets, winning 25-22 and 25-20. The Wildcats capitalized on Whitworth errors but the Pirates continued to match their points and keep both sets close.
Whitworth managed to turn the game around in the fourth set. After five ties and five lead changes the Bucs won 25-22, tying the match at two games apiece.
“This group just doesn’t give up and that’s nice to see,” Rupe said. “Even though we were down in the third set they still came back.”
The Pirates proved their resilience late in matches when they found themselves down 5-1 in a game to 15. The Pirates steadily decreased the Wildcats’ lead and a service ace from Dinsmore tied the game 8-8.
Linfield would tie the game three more times but never took the lead back and the match ended with Whitworth winning the last set 16-14.
“We finally just clicked,” Leonard said. “We had a really good week of practice and it was finally clicking and it’s such a relief.”
Leonard ended the night with nine kills and 13 digs, White had 20 kills and 16 digs, Hedlund had nine kills and 10 digs, Dinsmore had 20 digs and Santos had 31 digs.
“I think that a lot of the teams we’ve played are going to underestimate us,” White said. “Our goal now is to just end as the strongest team in the conference. We want to be the hardest team to play.”
The Pirates will kick off the second half of the season this Friday at the Whitworth Fieldhouse against Pacific Lutheran at 7 pm.
Megan John Staff Writer
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