Multnomah Defeats Willamette, 3-2, as Big Rally by Bearcats Falls just Short

Jaiden Mason (So., S/OPP, Charlotte, NC/Charlotte Christian School)
Jaiden Mason (So., S/OPP, Charlotte, NC/Charlotte Christian School)

By Robert McKinney, Assistant Athletics Director, Communications

PORTLAND, Ore. -- After falling behind with close losses in the first two sets, Willamette University put on a big rally with victories of 25-8 and 25-16 in the next two sets, but Multnomah University took the fifth set, 15-9, to win the non-conference match, 3-2, on Tuesday, Sept. 18 at Jim Skagen Court. The Lions, who compete in the NAIA and the Cascade Collegiate Conference, won 25-22, 25-21, 8-25, 16-25, 15-9. Multnomah improved to 2-12 on the season. Willamette, a member of NCAA Division III and the Northwest Conference, dropped to 4-7. It was the Bearcats' third game in five days.

Miranda Halverson of Multnomah led all players with 14 kills to go along with 13 digs and four total blocks. Sydney Amundsen provided the Lions with 13 kills and three blocks, while Taryn Frey added 10 kills and a .381 hitting percentage. The Lions finished with a .124 team hitting percentage, but hit .368 in the fifth set.

Also for Multnomah, Marissa Rhodes earned 42 assists and three service aces. Rachel Leshikar registered 22 digs.

Willamette hit .214 as a team, including .484 in the final three sets. Jaiden Mason (So., S/OPP, Charlotte, NC/Charlotte Christian School), who set a career high with 43 assists against Whitman, contributed 42 assists against the Lions. Natalie Klotz (Fr., OH/OPP, Bonner Springs, KS/Bonner Springs HS) recorded 13 kills and three service aces, while Kendall Fox (Jr., OH, Dupont, WA/Steilacoom HS) supplied 10 kills and a .471 hitting percentage.

Lauren Stiles (Jr., OH, Altadena, CA/Flintridge Preparatory School) earned nine kills, including seven in the first set. Nina Hernandez (So., LIB/DS, Valencia, CA/William S. Hart HS) provided the Bearcats with 21 digs, while Stiles tacked on 13 digs.

"We needed to get some playing time for certain people tonight," Willamette Head Coach Tom Shoji said. "In sets 3 and 4 we played with more confidence and things fell into place. In the fifth set, Multnomah got some energy back and we made a couple of errors. All in all this was something that will help us in conference play."

The fifth set began with ties from 1-1 through 4-4. Multnomah took a 6-4 lead with back-to-back points ending with a kill by Maile Kam. Those two points opened a 5-1 run by the Lions to take a 9-5 lead. Six of MU's first nine points were scored on kills.

An attacking error by the Lions reduced the margin to 9-6, but the next three points went to Multnomah for a commanding 12-6 advantage. Willamette battled to reduce the deficit with two kills by Jo Stensaas (Sr., MH/OPP, Weed, CA/Weed HS) sandwiched around a kill by Fox, but 12-9 was as close as the Bearcats got. Amundsen scored on a kill for Multnomah, and then Rhodes earned two service aces in a row to end the match with a 15-9 win.

Willamette spent much of the first set fighting from behind. Multnomah built a 5-1 lead, but the teams were soon tied at 5-5. A few rallies later, the Lions broke a 7-7 tie with a kill by Amundsen. Two attacking errors by the Beacats and a kill by Emma Wall gave the Lions an 11-7 edge. The Bearcats eventually pulled within two points at 17-15 on a service ace by Stiles. A bit later, Multnomah held a 21-18 lead, but the Bearcats ran off four conecutive points to move in front, 22-21, on a kill from Lauren Kaaialii (So., OH, Honolulu, HI/Sacred Hearts Academy).

Multnonah scored the next four points, ending with three kills in a row, for a 25-22 win. Kills by Halverson provided two of the four points, including the set-winner.

The second set was very similar to the first set. Multnomah broke a 7-7 tie with four consecutive points. Willamette tied the score at 12-12 on a combo block from Kyana Benjamin (So., MH, Lubbock, TX/Lubbock HS) and Dreux Bertolucci (Sr., OH, Cottonwood, CA/West Valley HS/Shasta College). The next trio of rallies were won by the Lions, who built a 15-12 advantage and later held a 21-18 lead. A solo block by Stensaas on an attack by Frey allowed WU to pull within 21-19. Multnomah closed the set with a 4-2 run.

Willamette held a modest 5-4 lead after nine points in the third set. The Bearcats exploded with a 5-0 spurt that turned into a 10-1 run for a 15-5 lead. The overall run included a service ace by Elena Vasquez (So., LIB/DS, Kingston, WANorth Kitsap HS) and two aces by Jennifer Lane (Jr., MH/OH, Salinas, CA/Notre Dame HS). The Lions broke the run with kills by Emma Wall and Frey to pull within 15-7. Willamette scored 10 of the next 11 points, including an ace by Mason and ending with two aces by Klotz, for a 25-8 triumph.

The Beacats surged into a 15-5 lead in the fourth set with five of the points on kills by Klotz. Later, Willamette led 21-9 after Fox registered a kill. Multnomah cut the margin to 23-15 on a kill from Amudnsen, but the Bearcats won the set 25-16 with Klotz providing a kill for the final point. Klotz amassed seven kills during the set.

Willamette will take on Linfield College in McMinnville, Oregon, on Friday, Sept. 21. Match time is set for 7 p.m. (PDT). The Bearcats will play their first home match of the season when they take on Pacific Lutheran University on Saturday, Sept. 22 at Cone Field House. The match is set to begin at 5 p.m. PLU is ranked #9 in the NCAA Division III Coaches Top 25 Poll released by the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA).