Female Athlete of the Year: Maddye Dinsmore

The Fieldhouse was taken by storm last fall as the new court was broken in by the volleyball team. Throughout the team’s success, there was one player who stood out: junior and team captain Maddye Dinsmore. After the season the Pirates put together on the court, taking a share of the Northwest Conference title and the automatic bid to the NCAA National Tournament, Dinsmore was awarded with personal accolades as well. Dinsmore was crowned as the NWC Player of the Year and named to the First Team All-West Region.

“I was so proud of her [for winning NWC Player of the Year] because I couldn’t think of anyone more deserving, and I was thrilled that all of our opponents in the conference noticed it as well,” coach Kati Bodecker said.

However, according to her teammate, junior Izze Ginley, Dinsmore doesn’t like to talk about the awards she won.

“I’m not shooting for the accolades,” Dinsmore said. “As a setter, I want to become more consistent. The accolades I received this last year were not because of me, but rather because of my team around me.”

Even though she has already been dubbed ‘the best player in the NWC,’ Dinsmore is still hungry for more. It is her work ethic that sets her apart from the rest of the competition.

“All of her accomplishments are absolutely because of her work ethic,” Bodecker said. “All coaches say you can’t be successful without the right work ethic, but with Maddye it’s especially true.”

Not only has her coach noticed her work drive, but her teammates have as well. They frequently are pushed by Dinsmore.

“She has a stronger work ethic than anyone I’ve seen,” sophomore Brenna Bruil said.

Along with the determination, Dinsmore has created a level of trust with her teammates that is irreplaceable. As the setter for the team, everyone is reliant on Dinsmore being able to get the second touch and set up the hitters to put the ball away.

“We know that Maddye will get the ball, she’s so fast. We know she’s going to chase down every ball, even if the pass isn’t the greatest,” Bruil said.

Dinsmore is quick to point out that even though she touches the ball almost every play as a setter, that’s not where the play starts.

“I can’t give my hitters a good set without a good first pass. It’s truly a full team effort,” Dinsmore said.

However, it is not just on the court that Dinsmore is an inspiration to her teammates. Over the past year, she has taken her leadership abilities and applied them off the court as well.

“When you’re a captain, you kind of have that extra pressure to reach out to people, and I see her reaching out to everyone on the team to foster relationships,” Ginley said.

Dinsmore, an elementary education major with hopes of becoming a kindergarten teacher, will return for her senior season next year and will try to lead the Pirates back to the NCAA tournament.

“We want to get back to the tournament this next year and make some noise,” Dinsmore said.

With Dinsmore leading the Bucs, and most of the team returning, the Pirates will aim to be even better next season.

 

John Ekberg

Staff Writer

Volleyball wins big home games to tie PLU for lead in NWC

After a quick shutout on Friday night and a close win on Saturday, the volleyball team has their first chance at a conference title since the 2011-2012 season. The team is now tied with Pacific Lutheran University for first place in the conference. Pressure mounted in this important weekend for the team as they took on rivals for the title—PLU and University of Puget Sound. Whitworth took a lead over PLU in the first set and never let up. Solid blocks from sophomore Brenna Bruil, sophomore Haley Vick, and junior Nicole Leonard challenged PLU’s outside hitters, who hit a .000 hitting average. Vick and Leonard also made several early kills, leading to an initial six-point gap which PLU could not close. Leonard made two service aces halfway through the match which only added to the high level of energy circulating in Pirate territory. As the match point approached, PLU climbed back with a four-point streak, tipping the ball into the Pirate’s open center and capitalizing off of Pirate errors. Leonard finally finished off the set for the Pirates with a kill.

“All this week at practice we focused on blocking and it carried over hugely in the game tonight,” Bruil said.

Freshman Cassandra Mendoza started the second set off with two kills, and the Pirates quickly accumulated a three-point lead. PLU tied up the game at 10-10 after they targeted the Whitworth defense’s weak point with more tipping, while improving their blocking to counter Whitworth’s strong left-side hitting. Following a timeout, Whitworth regained the advantage in the match by concentrating a series of kills to the Lute’s left back. Bruil put down two subsequent kills after long rallies, giving the Pirates another win.

“We came back [after the tie] with the mentality that we really have nothing to lose. Ever since I’ve played here we’ve never beaten PLU, so we just went after it with that ‘nothing-to-lose mentality,’” junior Elizabeth Ginley said.

During the final match, PLU drove Whitworth to many long rallies in which their hitters aimed successfully at Whitworth’s open left front side. Whitworth struggled to keep up on the scoreboard as both teams exchanged digs and kills. PLU again relied heavily on tipping to earn points, but Whitworth finally pulled ahead after service aces from both Bruil and Ginley. Vick topped off the scoreboard with her 10th kill of the night and hit the highest individual hitting percent for the team—.412. Ginley led the Pirates in number of digs, making 18 overall.

“PLU really played to our past weakness of the shorter tip balls in the shallow part of the court,” Ginley said. “I think what we did better against them this game versus the last time we played them is we really [read] the hitters, and we were able to anticipate the shorter balls.”

On Saturday night, Whitworth went toe to toe with UPS. Coming into the game, both teams came into the match tied for second place in the conference alongside Pacific Lutheran. The Pirates suffered a loss in the first game due to repeated blocking errors. UPS’ solid hitting sent Pirate defense scrambling and the women couldn’t make many successful plays. UPS narrowly won 25-23.

“[After the first set] we were focusing on our errors and the point behind us. We had the conversation of looking forward and focusing on that next point because we play well when we’re enthusiastic, and I thought we did that,” Head Coach Kati Bodecker said.

UPS continued making kills on the Pirates’ open right back and center. Korshavn and freshman Karina Lees made much-needed offensive plays, tying up the game at 23 points. Lees made the most of her time off the bench, leading her team with 15 kills. Korshavn, Lees and Bruil made the final three kills which led to the Pirate’s close win at 26-24.

The Pirates managed to take an early five-point lead with stronger hitting after halftime. Outside hitters Korshavn and Leonard swung harder to get the ball past UPS’s wall of blockers and successfully targeted open spots in UPS’ right side. Junior setter Maddye Dinsmore dropped a strategic tip into UPS’ left side to maintain the Pirates’ three-point advantage and Leonard finished with a low kill.

In the final match, UPS fought back, putting up their best blockers to counter Vick’s, Lee’s and Leonard’s powerful attacks. Neither team could gain advantage until UPS hit three subsequent attack errors. Korshavn and Bruil blocked out UPS’ final attack to tie up the game at 23 points. Dinsmore then made her third service ace of the night to give the Pirates the advantage. A final attack error by UPS’ attackers gave the Pirates their third narrow win.

The Pirates play Whitman in Walla Walla, Washington on Wednesday, Oct. 22, at 6 p.m.

 

Leah Dassler

Staff Writer

Volleyball takes two wins on Homecoming stretch

During Homecoming last weekend, the volleyball team defeated both George Fox and Lewis & Clark at home. In the past, the Pirates have tended to split wins on Homecoming weekend, but this weekend marked the first Homecoming since 2011 in which the volleyball team earned two wins at home. The women now stand second in the Northwest Conference, holding six wins and two losses in conference play. On Friday night, the women shut down George Fox in three games. In the first set, the Bruins managed to stay two points behind Whitworth until the Pirates strung together an 11-4 run. Junior Shawna Korshavn led the team with four kills. The teams exchanged kills in the last minutes of the match, but the Bruin hitters could not overcome the Pirates’ six-point lead. Freshman Cassy Mendoza finished the match with a final kill.

During the second game, Whitworth started off strong with a 9-0 run. Sophomore Brenna Bruil dominated on defense with six successful attacks. Although George Fox attempted to make a comeback to 24-17 near the end of the game, their service error led to another Pirate win.

“Our intensity was a really strong point. The other team did a really good job tipping, but I also felt that we were in control the whole game,” Leonard said.

The Bruins fought back in the third set, gaining a two-point lead before the Pirates moved ahead with a 5-2 run due to several Bruin errors. Bruil finished the match with her twelfth kill of the night. Junior Nicole Leonard led the team with 18 digs while junior Mallorie Schoesler followed closely behind with 14 digs.

On Saturday night, Lewis & Clark challenged the Pirate defense with 14 kills in the first set. The Pioneers took a five-point lead early on while Whitworth struggled to overcome attack errors. The Pirates climbed back up to 22-24 but the Pioneers prevailed with a kill.

The Pirates came back in the second set, improving their hitting percentage from .044 to .105. Freshman outside hitter Cassandra Mendoza made four kills in the first ten points, as each team struggled to gain a lead. The teams tied at 19-19 but Whitworth won on a 6-3 run. In the third set, the Pirates shut out Pioneer attacks with four blocks. The Pirates won on Mendoza’s service ace.

“This weekend we were focusing on playing like we have something to prove because we’re second in the conference right now,” Schoesler said. “Tonight, our blocking improved. We really focused on that in practice. Getting more touches on the blocks really helped us with our defense.”

During the fourth set, Lewis & Clark gained a narrow lead until Leonard and junior Shawna Korshavn made a combined three kills to take the lead. Mendoza made five successful kills after that, while Leonard wrapped up the Pirate win with her sixteenth kill of the night.

“We knew that Lewis & Clark was going to match up well with us well defensively and so we were going to have to earn our points. I think we were prepared for that battle tonight,” Head Coach Kati Bodecker said.

Overall, the Pirates out-blocked the Pioneers 10 to six—their highest number of blocks this season. They will play Pacific Lutheran at home on Friday night.

 

Leah Dassler

Staff Writer

Volleyball dominates in weekend matchup

Following their narrow win over Whitman last Wednesday, the Pirates dominated Pacific University volleyball last Saturday night. Whitworth’s strong offense and accurate blocking overtook the Pacific Boxers 3-0, bringing the women’s Northwest Conference record this season to 2-2. Hitting a much-improved percentage of .393 in the entire match, Whitworth’s offense took the lead in all three matches. Junior Nicole Leonard led the team with 13 kills, while freshman Cassandra Mendoza followed closely behind with 12 kills and the highest hitting percentage of the night—.706. These kills along with junior Shawna Korshavn’s seven kills and junior setter Maddye Dinsmore’s 37 assists delivered the solid offense that the Pirates needed to shut down Pacific. Pacific’s defense and .141 hitting average could not keep the score close.

“We were really focused on playing our game instead of worrying about what [Pacific University] was going to throw at us,” sophomore Haley Vick said.

The Pirate’s  offensive focus at practice this week paid off, pulling the team together for the win, Vick said.

Whitworth’s early six-point lead in the first set started off the team’s upward momentum. Although several attack errors on the Pirate side allowed the Boxers to tie the score 12-12, Mendoza, sophomore Brenna Bruil, and Leonard’s combined nine kills in the second half of the game regained the Pirate lead. Pacific’s game point attack error finished the set 25-19.

“We came in with the focus tonight that we wanted to find our rhythm offensively. We’re a team that when we play well offensively, everything else kind of comes together,” Head Coach Kati Bodecker said.

Pacific’s well-placed tips in the beginning of the second set initially challenged Whitworth’s defense, as the teams stayed within one point of each other for five points. Dinsmore, however, moved the Pirates ahead with a second-touch tip over Pacific’s blockers. Vick and Leonard then targeted Pacific’s left back defense, making two kills.

Lack of communication between Pacific’s players became obvious when they dropped a ball and made two net errors. Whitworth’s aggressive blocking as well as Mendoza’s and Korshavn’s hitting efforts left Pacific’s defense scrambling, and the Pirates proceeded to win 25-11.

“Our main key tonight was to play free and compete. I think we did that. When you all commit to the same thing and play selflessly, then it gets really easy to get excited about everyone’s awesome kills or their awesome digs,” Dinsmore said.

Dinsmore again tipped several balls over the Boxers’ blockers in the third game. This, along with two kills from Mendoza, pushed the Pirates three points ahead of the Boxers. The Boxers’ offense, although inconsistent at first when they hit several balls out, tied up the score 12-12, challenging the Pirate defense with kills over blockers’ reach. Mendoza’s solid kills eventually overcame Pacific’s blockers, and she finished the Pirate sweep with a kill to the left back.

The women will challenge the Willamette Bearcats in Salem, Ore. on Friday. They hope to approach the game with hard work in practice this week so they can beat Willamette, Bodecker said.

 

Leah Dassler

Staff Writer

Spotted from the Crow's Nest: Nicole Leonard

When spectators see junior Nicole Leonard compete at volleyball, there is no doubt she has a fighter’s spirit. Her skill on the court earned her 801 digs over the past two seasons along with 579 kills and 30 aces. However, what stands out the most to the people who know her best is her commitment to building strong relationships in all aspects of her life. Whether she’s leading her teammates in matches, working as a youth leader at St. Luke Lutheran Church, or connecting with elementary school students through Whitworth’s education program, Leonard invests in people. “Building relationships is really important to me. With that, it goes through friendships, family, volleyball, and the youth group. With volleyball, if you don’t have a good relationship with a girl on the court, it’s not going to work out well. You’re not going to play well as a team,” Leonard said. “My family’s super important to me. They come up and support me all the time.”

For the 2014 season, Leonard moved up the leadership ranks on the team. With no seniors, she is one of only six upperclassmen. As a result, her leadership and rare two years of experience are key motivators for her teammates.

“She has a lot of qualities that make her a great leader but also her experience. Players look to her,” Head Coach Kati Bodecker said. “She leads through actions but also does a great job communicating with her team mates, letting them know the expectations of the program. She lets her actions speak first.”

As a freshman, Leonard started in all 23 matches and as a sophomore, she continued building the team dynamic when she started in all 28 matches. Her involvement cemented friendships with her teammates, especially with her fellow Californian and Pirate right-side player, junior Shawna Korshavn. After growing up in the same church in Thousand Oaks and playing club volleyball together, Korshavn’s friendship with Leonard speaks to Leonard’s passion for making connections with others.

“She helps out with the high-schoolers and middle-schools [at our church]. They were actually at the game [last Wednesday] and they were pumped to see her play,” Korshavn said. “With her being older--a junior on the team--she wants the freshmen to look up to her more as a person than as a skilled volleyball player. I think she really tries to praise God through her play and praise people through her play, by really lifting up the team and being a good role model.”

Although Leonard knew she always wanted to be a teacher, it was Whitworth’s education program that solidified Leonard’s decision to connect with younger children at a personal level. Getting into the classroom and interacting with the students brought out her passion for working with youth, Leonard said.

“Ever since I got to hang out with the kids, I knew it was a done deal. I’m going to be a teacher. I love it so much,” Leonard said.

This passion for people combined with a competitive nature developed through years of playing not only volleyball but softball as well, have strengthened Leonard so that she plays a foundational role as a teammate, youth leader, and friend.

“In Nicole I see a lot of strength. She’s a very strong person. She has had to battle and overcome injuries and she does her best not to let that affect her performance or her attitude out on the court,” Head Coach Kati Bodecker said. “There’s a lot of times, I think, where she’s actually in a lot of pain but I would not even notice because she doesn’t make that a point of focus.”

For Leonard, the focus is on others needs. When freshman Gracie Meiners joined the team this year, her first impressions of Leonard revealed Leonard’s people-centered outlook.

“What’s most important to Nicole is making sure our team dynamic is good. [She] makes sure we’re all working together and having a good time while still working hard,” Meiners said. “When I first met Nicole, she made me feel welcome and [she] always encouraged me to do my best. Skill-wise she’s extremely good, so watching her be a role model and set that high standard made me want to push myself and work harder too.”

Leonard plans to carry her relational focus and inner strength into her vocation as a future elementary school teacher and as an athlete striving with her teammates for an NWC title this season.

 

Leah Dassler

Staff Writer

Volleyball falls short in match ups with PLU and UPS

This weekend, Whitworth Volleyball broke their seven-game winning streak in their first two Northwest Conference games of the season, bringing their overall record to 7-4. They narrowly lost to Pacific Lutheran University in a fifth set Friday night and pushed Puget Sound University to a fourth set on Saturday. The Pirates started off strong in the first set, leading until the 18th point when PLU pulled ahead 19-18.

Whitworth kept up with the Lutes until the 20th point in which PLU put down four subsequent kills. Freshman Cassy Mendoza earned one more point for the Pirates with a kill from the outside left side. The Lutes, however, finished off the first set with another kill.

PLU gained a four-point lead right from the start of the second set due to three attack errors by Whitworth and a kill by PLU.  Whitworth trailed behind PLU, but narrowed a six-point gap to 11-9 with a series of successful outside attacks from sophomore Haley Vick. The rebound did not last long though, as PLU quickly racked up 12 more points from eight kills as well as Pirate service and blocking errors.

“We didn’t get the same touches as we were able to get early on in the season. Our defense was running around and not playing in control,” Head Coach Kati Bodecker said. “We need to break it down, get in more reps at practice, and bring it back to the basics which made us successful [defensively] in the first place.”

The third set was the turning point for Whitworth. Their hitting percentage improved from 0.06 in the second set to 0.25 in the third set. Two kills each from Vick and junior Nicole Leonard contributed to a 7-1 run in which the Bucs took the lead. Adding to their comeback, junior Maddye Dinsmore assisted Leonard in making six of her 15 kills of the night.

“We were down 2-0 and we had to come back. I’d say that third match was a really high point for our team to come together and get that win,” Dinsmore said. “We are fighters and we’re not going down without a fight.”

Taking advantage of Buc attack errors, the Lutes closed in 17-21 but the Bucs won with a final kill from Mendoza.

“We needed to change our serving. We weren’t serving tough enough. We also changed our passing, mentality, and attitude to become one unit,” Dinsmore said.

Picking up momentum, the Bucs held off PLU during the fourth set. Focusing on defensive strategies again to counter the Lutes’ 22 attacks, the Bucs took a 14-9 lead only to let the Lutes come close at 15-16. Sophomore Brenna Bruil’s ninth kill of the night tied the match 2-2, setting the teams up for a close tiebreaker.

“We came out in the third, fourth and fifth game ready to compete. Now we know we can compete with one of the best teams in the league,” Bruil said.

Whitworth initially took a two-point lead but attack and service errors allowed the Lutes to gain a three-point lead, bringing the score to 10-7. Responding to PLU’s aggressive approach, the Pirates dug in defensively, running several long rallies with Dinsmore’s 30th dig of the night. Both teams made 12 attacks each, but PLU came out stronger with one more successful kill than the Bucs. The Pirates consistently fought but could not overcome PLU’s seven-point run after the changeover, losing 12-15.

“I’d say our main strength was our defense and determination. In the first two games we struggled to come together as a team. We want to be a unified team and a good defensive team, really focusing on working hard with every ball and playing together,” Dinsmore said.

On Saturday night, the Bucs lost again, this time to Puget Sound. Although these games were closer than games the night before, the Pirates’ 59 kills couldn’t overcome UPS’s .244 hitting percentage. In the first set, UPS took advantage of several Pirate attack errors, moving ahead in a nine-point run and eventually winning 25-17. The Pirates came back in the second set with their best set hitting average of the night- .227.

Although Dinsmore made a service ace in the first minutes of play, the third set went to the Loggers 25-19 after a series of successful attacks. The Loggers finished the fourth set 25-23, shutting out any possibility of a Pirate comeback. Bruil made six of her 17 kills in this set, Mendoza put down 15 kills for the night and Leonard finished with 10 kills.

“We believe that playing together as a team is the best way to play and our success will come from doing the little things,” Bruil said.

The Pirates play Whitman at home tonight, Sept. 24, at 6 p.m.

“We’ve faced Whitman already in a tournament and they’re a great match-up...Our expectations for this Wednesday, if we can put together two solid practices Monday and Tuesday, are to play well and win,” Bodecker said.

 

Leah Dassler

Staff Writer