Willamette Earns 10 Service Aces, as Bearcats Prevail in Battle with Pioneers, 3-1

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

SALEM, Ore. -- Willamette University benefited from five players with six or more kills, and the Bearcats registered 10 service aces, to win a Northwest Conference battle with Lewis & Clark College, 3-1, at Cone Field House on Wednesday, Sept. 26. Natalie Klotz (Fr., OH/OPP, Bonner Springs, KS/Bonner Springs HS) led Willamette with 10 kills and six service aces. WU improved to 6-8 on the season, 3-2 in the NWC, while Lewis & Clark slipped to 8-4 overall, 1-4 in the NWC.

It was the fifth time this season that the Bearcats have amassed 10 or more aces, including four times in their last five outings. In addition to six aces from Klotz, the Bearcats received two aces each from Elena Vasquez (So., LIB/DS, Kingston, WA/North Kitsap HS) and Morgan Webster (Sr., S/DS, Milwaukie, OR/Milwaukie HS) during Wednesday's match. L&C produced just one service ace and had five serving errors.

Jaiden Mason (So., S/OPP, Charlotte, NC/Charlotte Christian School) added nine kills for Willamette. Kendall Fox (Jr., OH, Dupont, WA/Steilacoom HS) contributed eight kills, while Lauren Kaaialii (So., OH, Honolulu, HI/Sacred Hearts Academy) earned seven and Jennifer Lane (Jr., MH/OH, Salinas, CA/Notre Dame HS) contributed six. Lane had just one attacking error and hit. .263. Kaaialii committed only one attacking error on her way to hitting .250.

In addition to her nine kills, Mason earned 24 assists and 15 digs. Vasquez finished with 24 digs, while Klotz was credited with 14 digs. Webster registered 14 assists.

"We had to try a slightly different lineup tonight to get a little more offense," Willmette University Head Coach Tom Shoji said. "It worked pretty well because our players really adapted well. Jaiden Mason was hitting, Morgan Webster was setting, Lauren Kaaialii was hitting as an opposite, and Lauren Stiles (Jr., OH, Altadena, CA/Flintridge Preparatory School) played on the back row. It was also steady play from Kendall Fox, Natalie Klotz and Jo Stensaas (Sr., MH/OPP, Weed, CA/Weed HS) that made a difference, along with some great defense by Elena Vasquez."

Kortney Meyer of L&C topped all players with 19 kills, many resulting from powerful hits. She hit .289 on 45 attacks. Kendall Malone provided the Pioneers with 13 kills and hit .379. Mikayla Lopez supplied 25 assists, while Michelle McGinn earned 22 assists. Annika San Nicolas led all players with 27 digs. Malone finished with 19 digs and Meyer achieved 18 digs.

Willamette held a 17-8 lead in the first set, but L&C rallied to within 21-19 on a kill by Malone. The Bearcats score next on a serving error by the Pioneers, and then Lane and Klotz each added a kill for a 24-19 lead. Malone score the next point on a kill for L&C, but Klotz recorded her fifth kill of the set to give WU a 25-20 win.

During the next three setsi it felt like either team could take charge at any moment, especially in the second and fourth sets. Intense effort by both teams led to lengthy rallies and plenty of exciting action. Many of the digs were spectacular, including several pancake saves by the Bearcats and a string of quality stops by San Nicolas as Lewis & Clark's libero.

When the second set got underway, the Pioneers built a 4-1 lead. The Bearcats tied the score at 5-5 on a kill by Fox that led to a blocking error by Malone. L&C won the next three rallies, but held a slim 9-7 lead after a kill by Klotz. The Pioneers added a 7-2 offensive surge to claim a 16-9 advantage.

WU tallied the next three points to pull within 16-12. L&C later held a 20-14 margin on a kill by Ka'anel Pakaki-Pias, but the Bearcats closed the set with a 10-2 run. Morgan and Klotz each provided a service ace during the run, while Mason contributed three kills. Willamette took its first lead of the set at 22-21 on a ball-handling error by the Pioneers. WU owned a 23-22 edge before kills by Klotz and Mason ended the set.

L&C zoomed out to a 7-1 lead in the third set, with Pakaki-Pias as the server during six of the Pioneers' points. The Bearcats cut the margin to 12-9 on an attacking error by Meyer of L&C, but couldn't get closer. The Pioneers, who hit a match-high .256 during the set, used a 4-0 run to turn a 17-12 lead into a 21-12 advantage. L&C took the set, 25-18.

The Bearcats recovered from the setback by grabbing an 8-3 edge in the fourth set. Later, WU owned a 14-9 lead on a kill by Kaaialii. The Pioneers countered with three points in a row, ending with a kill by Meyer to pull L&C within 14-12. Several points later, Lewis & Clark moved back within two points at 16-14 on a kill by Meyer.

Mason recorded three kills over the next seven rallies, as Willamette put together a 5-2 run for a 21-16 lead. Meyer registered kills for both of L&C's points during Willamette's run.

A kill by Casey Myszkowski cut the margin to 21-17, but WU scored the next point when an attack by Meyer landed behind the end line. The teams split the next two points, leaving the Bearcats with a 23-18 edge. Back-to-back kills from Klotz that were assisted by Mason completed the set and the match.

Willamette will remain at home to take on Pacific University on Friday, Sept. 28. Match time at Cone Field House is scheduled for 7 p.m. (PDT).