By Robert McKinney, Assistant Athletics Director, Communications
SALEM, Ore. -- Pacific Lutheran University opened with a strong first set and went on to defeat Willamette University, 3-0, in a Northwest Conference volleyball match on Saturday, Sept. 22 at Cone Field House. The Lutes, who are ranked #9 in the NCAA Division III Poll released by the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA), won 25-7, 25-20, 27-25. PLU upped its record to 11-1 on the season, 4-0 in the NWC, while the Bearcats fell to 5-8 overall, 2-2 in the NWC.
Willamette was led on offense by Kendall Fox (Jr., OH, Dupont, WA/Steilacoom HS), who earned 11 kills and finished with a .206 hitting percentage. Arianna Khan (So., OPP, Yuba, CA/River Valley HS) provided the Bearcats with 10 kills. Setter Jaiden Mason (So., S/OPP, Charlotte, NC/Charlotte Christian School) contributed 26 assists an d10 digs. Natalie Klotz (Fr., OH/OPP, Bonner Springs, KS/Bonner Springs HS) and Elena Vasquez (So., LIB/DS, Kingston, WA/North Kitsap HS) each finished with 13 digs.
For Pacific Lutheran, Chloe Epker took on the leader's role with 10 kill, only one attacking error and a .273 hitting percentage. She also led the Lutes with 15 digs, had four block assists and recorded three service aces. Lauren Wilson and Mackenzie Harris ended the match with nine kills apiece. Isabella Zubrod supplied a double-double with 14 assists and 12 digs, while achieving seven kills. Ava Nelson added 10 assists.
The Lutes recorded the first 10 points in the first set and also led 12-2. The Bearcats trailed 15-5 after each team added three points, but PLU scored the next five points and cruised to a 1-0 lead in the match.
Willamette provided solid opposition to the Lutes in the second and third sets. PLU led by a small 21-18 margin late in the second set before defeating the Bearcats, 25-20. In the third set, WU fended off two set points before falling to the Lutes, 27-25.
"We had a rough start obviously, but we competed well in sets two and three. That's the team I know," Willamette Head Coach Tom Shoji commented. "We are starting to believe that we can be a good team. The more we play, the better we get. I think we can become one of the better teams in the conference."
The Bearcats won the first two rallies of the second set on a kill by Klotz and an attacking error by the Lutes. A bit later, Willamette led 7-6 on a combo block from Klotz and Kyana Benjamin (So., MH, Lubbock, TX/Lubbock HS). Pacific Lutheran countered with a 5-1 run that included five kills, as the Lutes grabbed an 11-8 advantage.
WU scored next on a killl from Khan, but PLU added another 5-1 run to take a 16-10 lead. After Willamette battled back to within 21-18, the Lutes closed out the set with a 4-2 run.
The third set was entertaining, with 14 ties and five lead changes. Willamette surged out to a 5-2 lead and also owned a 7-3 advantage. Pacific Lutheran tied the score at 7-7 on a combo block by Danielle Skibiel and Jordan Sherfey, but the Bearcats tallied five of the next six points for a 12-8 edge.
PLU answered with a 4-0 run. The run created the first of eight ties from 12-12 through 19-19. Willamette moved into a 22-19 lead on two kills by Khan and an attacking error by Epker. The Lutes scored the next four points on a kill from Epker and three combo blocks. A kill by Klotz knotted the score at 23-23.
After the Lutes moved in front 24-23 on a serving error by Willamette, the Beacats responded with a kill by Jennifer Lane (Jr., MH/OH, Salinas, CA/Notre Dame HS). Pacific Lutheran earned another match point with a kill from Harris, but Khan provided a kill for the Bearcats to tie the score again at 25-25. Harris and Wilson added kills for the Lutes to end the match.
Willamette will return to action on Wednesday, Oct. 26 with a home match against NWC rival Lewis & Clark College. Match time at Cone Field House is slated for 7 p.m. (PDT).