Willamette and Whitman Battle for Five Sets before Bearcats Defeat Blues, 3-2

Arianna Khan (So., OPP, Yuba, CA/River Valley HS)
Arianna Khan (So., OPP, Yuba, CA/River Valley HS)

By Robert McKinney, Assistant Athletics Director, Communications

SALEM, Ore. -- Willamette University freshman Natalie Klotz (Fr., OH/OPP, Bonner Springs, KS/Bonner Springs HS) earned back-to-back kills on the final two rallies of the match, as the Bearcats won the fifth set 18-16 to defeat Whitman College, 3-2, on Saturday, Oct. 13 at Cone Field House. The match was part of Homecoming and Family Weekend for the Bearcats. The fifth set featured 10 ties and seven lead changes.

Earlier in the match, the Bearcats took the first set, 25-23, and prevailed in the third set, 25-16. Whitman won the second set, 25-13, and added a 25-20 triumph in the fourth set.

"Wow, what a match," Willamette Head Coach Tom Shoji said. "The ebb and flow of a volleyball match can really be stressful, but we were able to pull through and finish strong"

It was a solid match overall for the Bearcats. Arianna Khan (So., OPP, Yuba, CA/River Valley HS) led the team with 14 kills, while Jennifer Lane (Jr., MH/OH, Salinas, CA/Notre Dame HS) and Lauren Stiles (Jr., OH, Altadena, CA/Flintridge Preparatory School) each contributed 13 kills. Lane had just one attacking error on 23 total attacks, as she earned a .522 hitting percentage. Several of her kills were pounded with authority onto the court.

Six Willamette players were credited with 10 or more digs, led by Stiles with 17 and Klotz with 14. Klotz completed the match with seven kills. Jo Stensaas (Sr., MH/OPP, Weed, CA/Weed HS) topped all players with six block assists.

Jaiden Mason (So., S/OPP, Charlotte, NC/Charlotte Christian School) provided WU with a career-high 46 assists. Her previous career high was 43 assists in a 3-2 win at Whitman on Sept. 15 earlier this season. On Saturday, Mason also recorded four service aces, 13 digs and four total blocks.

"We had some great play by Arianna Khan tonight and Lauren Stiles was so steady. And did Jennifer Lane have some nice hits in set five," Shoji said. "We showed so much resilience tonight. It was good to see, and it will be the way we want to play the rest of our matches."

Codie Conching led the Blues with 17 kills. Kalli Dickey produced 16 kills, five service aces and 10 digs and four total blocks. Megan Henry finished with 11 kills and a .321 hitting percentage. Claire McCarthy registered a match-high 21 digs, while Conching accumulated 20 digs.

Whitman scored the first two points of the fifth set, but the Bearcats went on a 6-1 run to grab a 6-3 lead. The run ended with two service aces by Mason sandwiched between to kills by Khan. Willamette also led 7-5, before the Blues countered with a 5-1 run that gave Whitman a 10-8 lead following a kill by Conching.

The Bearcats tied the score at 11-11 on a kill by Lane and took a 12-11 lead on a kill by Khan. The teams were tied at 13-13 before a service ace by Tate Cadang provided Whitman with the first match-point of the evening. Cadang followed with a service error, and the Bearcats added a kill by Khan, to attain Willamette's first match-point at 15-14.

A kill by Dickey and a kill from Conching advanced the Blues into a 16-15 lead. Willamette closed out the set with three consecutive kills. Stiles contributed the first kill for a 16-16 tie, and then Klotz added two more kills for the go-ahead and match-winning points.

The first set was a titanic battle that included 12 ties and five lead changes, as neither team led by more than two points. Willamette led 18-16 after a Whitman attacking error. The Blues eventually gained a 21-19 advantage, only to have the Bearcats move in front 23-21 after two consecutive bad sets by Whitman. Two rallies later, the Blues tied the score on a kill by Brooke Randall. Willamette edged in front 24-23 on a combo block by Mason and Stensaas and won the set on a kill from Stiles.

Whitman zoomed out to an 8-3 lead in the second set and eventually held a commanding 15-4 margin. Willamette was unable to recover, as the Blues won the set 25-13 after hitting .452 with 16 kills.

The Bearcats started strong in the third set, as they built a 6-0 lead with Klotz serving. The run ended with one kill each from Khan, Lane, and Mason, followed by a back-row kill from Klotz. After Sierra Myers produced a kill for Whitman, the Bearcats added four consecutive points for a 10-1 margin. The Blues threatened to get back in the set several times, but couldn't get closer than five points at 15-10. Willamette tallied the next two points and went on to win the set, 25-16.

In the fourth set, Willamette led 7-5 and Whitman owned a 10-8 lead. A bit later, the Blues held a 16-12 edge after kill by Cali Anderson. Willamette pulled within 21-19 on a kill by Lane, but Whitman scored four of the next five points for a 25-20 win that forced both teams into the fifth set.

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

Big Moment of the Match for Willamette

Natalie Klotz was the server on the first six rallies of the
third set, as Willamette moved out to a 6-0 lead over
the Blues. Klotz provided a solid string of serves and even
scored the sixth point on a back-row kill. The serving by
Klotz, plus powerful hitting from Jennifer Lane in the
fourth and fifth sets, gave the Bearcats momentum as
they earned a 3-2 victory.