Whitworth began league play by facing two nationally ranked schools, Pacific Lutheran and Puget Sound last weekend on the road. Despite being closely contested matches, Whitworth lost both. In the league opener on Sept. 14, Pacific Lutheran took hold of an early lead and held on to win the first set 25-13. Whitworth responded well in the second set, working its way to an 8-4 lead, but faltered down the stretch as PLU took off toward the end of the set and won 25-19.
The Pirates continued to improve and put more pressure on PLU, stepping up defensively and offensively, which resulted in a third set 25-18 victory.
“We sped up our transitions and attacked the ball more quickly so that they could not get their big block set,” head coach Steve Rupe said.
The fourth and final set was close again with several ties and lead changes throughout the game before PLU pulled away to a 25-20 victory.
“I was proud of how we never gave up and came out even stronger after losing the first two sets,” freshman Nicole Leonard said.
She had 10 kills and 26 digs against the Lutes.
Whitworth was led by junior Jalana White, who had 14 kills, 18 digs and five blocks along with junior Kristine Kardell who had 10 kills and three blocks.
“We played very scrappy and worked really hard for every single point,” junior Abi Hedlund said. “We never once gave up even if we were down in a game, which speaks really highly to our team.”
With the goal of competing for the conference title, Whitworth came out strong in their match against Puget Sound.
“After the PLU game, we saw how quickly we could play, so we wanted that to transfer that over to our game against UPS,” Hedlund said. “We wanted to focus on moving and transitioning quickly, and once again shut down their go to players.”
Puget Sound started the first set with a 4-0 run, but Whitworth kept close for the rest of the game, a 25-19 loss, and into the second and third sets.
“We played more consistently point for point which kept UPS from going on runs,” Leonard said.
The Pirates continued to pressure UPS, as the second set alone saw 17 ties and seven lead changes before the Loggers could finish the set 25-23 and win the match after three games.
Leonard, junior Whitney Santos and Hedlund led the Bucs in digs with 18, 15 and 14 apiece, in addition to 13 kills for Leonard and nine for White.
“We battled very well we really feel that we can play with them when we are at full strength,” Rupe said. “We showed a competitive nature and that we will never give up. I love that about this team. When they get knocked down they jump right back up.”
Whitworth will take on Whitman at home on Wednesday, Sept. 19, at 6 p.m. as they look to improve their 0-2 league record and climb up the ranks of the conference standings.
Meghan John Staff Writer
Contact Meghan John at email@example.com