Willamette Wins First Set, but Pirates Down Bearcats, 3-1, in NWC Opener

Natalie Klotz (Fr., OH/OPP, Bonner Springs, KS/Bonner Springs HS)
Natalie Klotz (Fr., OH/OPP, Bonner Springs, KS/Bonner Springs HS)

By Robert McKinney, Assistant Athletics Director, Communications

SPOKANE, Wash. -- Willamette University grabbed the first set against Whitworth University on Friday, Sept. 14, but the Pirates battled back to defeat the Bearcats, 3-1, in the Northwest Conference opener for both teams. The Pirates won, 22-25, 28-26, 25-15, 25-20, and improved to 7-3 overall, 1-0 in the NWC. Willamette fell to 3-6 on the season, 0-1 in the NWC.

Jessica Schmautz led Whitworth with a match-high 15 kills. She also tied for the team lead with 16 digs. Emiko Kahler and Lauren Budde each tacked on 12 kills, while Madison Douglas earned eight kills. Laina Damon matched Schmautz with 16 digs. Addy Woolery supplied 15 digs. Erin White contributed 49 assists and 13 digs.

Natalie Klotz (Fr., OH/OPP, Bonner Springs, KS/Bonner Springs HS) topped the Bearcats with 13 kills to go along with 12 digs. Kendall Fox (Jr., OH, Dupont, WA/Steilacoom HS) produced 10 kills and 14 digs. Jennifer Lane (Jr., MH/OH, Salinas, CA/Notre Dame HS) also was credited with 10 kills.

The Bearcats were playing their ninth match in a season-opening stretch of 12 consecutive road contests. The season began with tournaments at Lewis & Clark College and California Lutheran University. Willamette will continue its road swing on Saturday, Sept. 15 at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington, at 5 p.m. (PDT).

Willamette will complete the string of road battles with a match at Multnomah University in Portland, Oregon, on Tuesday, Sept. 18 and a match against Linfield College in McMinnville, Oregon, on Friday, Sept. 21. WU's home opener is set for Saturday, Sept. 22 against Pacific Lutheran University at Cone Field House, starting at 5 p.m. (PDT).

In the first set, Willamette took a 5-1 lead and moved in front 8-4 following a kill by Klotz. Whitworth eventually tied the score at 14-14 on a kill from Kahler. A solo block by Mason gave Willamette a 15-14 advantage, but the Pirates used a kill by Budde and a service ace by Damon to surge in front, 16-15.

Two rallies later, Whitworth owned a 17-16 lead. Willamette tied the score on a kill by Lauren Kaaialii (So., OH, Honolulu, HI/Sacred Hearts Academy). The teams also were tied three times over the next six points, including 20-20 on a kill by Budde. A block by Lane and a kill by Klotz gave the Bearcats a 22-20 margin. Whitworth tied the score on kills by Kahler and Budde. Willamette ended the set with three consecutive points for a 25-22 win on a kill from Klotz and two attacking errors by the Pirates.

After playing through eight ties and two lead changes in the first set, the teams combined for eight more ties and four lead changes in the second set. The Pirates put together an 8-3 run to grab a 14-9 lead. Later, Whitworth claimed a 20-13 margin when a kill by Schmautz completed a 3-0 run. Willamette countered with a four consecutive points, including kills from Lane and Lauren Stiles (Jr., OH, Altadena, CA/Flintridge Preparatory School), to start a 10-3 surge that tied the score, 23-23. The tying point was scored on a combo block by Klotz and Jo Stensaas (Sr., MH/OPP, Weed, CA/Weed HS).

The score was tied at 24-24 before Whitworth took the lead on a kill by Kahler. Klotz responded with a kill for the Bearcats to force a 25-25 deadlock. Another kill from Klotz gave the Bearcats a set point, but Schmautz earned kills on three straight rallies, as Whitworth prevailed, 28-26.

Momentum from the second set may have helped the Pirates at the start of the third set, as they zoomed out to a 7-0 lead, including three service aces by White. The Bearcats also trailed 10-4, but gradually rallied to pull within 13-10 on a kill by Fox. Willamette got as close as 16-14 after back-to-back kills from Lane, but the Pirates gained control of the set with a 6-0 run for a 22-14 advantage.

The teams were tied three times early in the fourth set, before the Pirates tallied seven points in a row for a 10-3 lead. Willamette answered with five points to reduce the margin to 10-8, and later pulled within a single point at 17-16. Whitworth added the next three points on a kill  by Kahler and two combo blocks. The Bearcats moved within 20-18 on a combo block from Klotz and Kyana Benjamin (So., MH, Lubbock, TX/Lubbock HS) two rallies later. The Pirates closed out the set with a 5-2 run.

Both teams finished with 10.0 team total blocks. Iris Tikhonov of Whitworth led all players with six total blocks, while Lane paced Willamette with five total blocks. Klotz added four block assists for the Bearcats. Mason also had four total blocks on one block solo and three block assists.