Bearcats Roll Past Linfield in Three Sets, Move Above .500 Mark in NWC

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

SALEM, Ore. -- Willamette University pounded out 40 kills in three sets on Friday, Oct. 19 at Cone Field House, as the Bearcats downed Linfield College in straight sets, 25-18, 25-11, 25-22. Natalie Klotz (Fr., OH/OPP, Bonner Springs, KS/Bonner Springs HS) led the Bearcats with 13 kills, 16 digs and three service aces. Kendall Fox (Jr., OH, Dupont, WA/Steilacoom HS) provided nine kills and Lauren Stiles (Jr., OH, Altadena, CA/Flintridge Preparatory School) supplied 14 digs.

With the victory, Willamette advanced its record to 9-11 overall and moved past the .500 mark in the Northwest Conference at 6-5. The Bearcats have won three of their last four matches. Linfield, which suited up just eight players on Friday, fell to 7-12 overall, 1-10 in the NWC.

Jaiden Mason (So., S/OPP, Charlotte, NC/Charlotte Christian School) added a strong night for the Bearcats. She earned 29 assists and seven digs to go along with four kills, no attacking errors and a .571 hitting percentage. Jo Stensaas (Sr., MH/OPP, Weed, CA/Weed HS) nearly matched Mason on the attack with four kills, no errors and a .500 attack percentage. Fox hit .333 and Klotz hit .303.

Regan Dean topped the Wildcats with nine kills, while Audrey Hyem contributed five kills. Libero Taylor Souza provided 20 digs. Dean and Leisa Eto each made eight digs.

Willamete finished the match with a .235 team hitting percentage and a 64-55 advantage in digs. The Bearcats achieved seven service aces but committed 10 serving errors. WU limited Linfield to 25 kills and a .078 team hitting percentage.

"Linfield obviously is struggling, but they did do some things well," said Willamette Head Coach Tom Shoji. "We did not focus very well in set #3, but we'll take the win. We really need to focus on better serving. Ten service errors are just to many."

The overall strong play by the Bearcats in the first two sets helped offset the team's serving mistakes. The Bearcats registered 12 kills and four attacking errors in the first set, followed by 16 kills and just two attacking errors in the second set.

Willamette built a solid lead to start the match. WU led 3-1 after four rallies and quickly extended the margin to 9-2 following a kill by Klotz. A few points later, the Bearcats were in front 12-3 after another kill from Klotz. Linfield tallied the next three points to get within 12-6 and eventually pulled as close as 19-15 on a kill by Lori Cimmiyotti.

The Bearcats scored the next three points, starting and ending with kills by Klotz, to take control of the set at 22-15. Willamette won 25-18.

A large lead went Willamette's way early in the second set as well. The Bearcats tallied the first five points with Klotz serving, including two service aces. A serving error ended the run, but the Bearcats still surged out to an 11-3 advantage. Linfield was unable to get closer than seven points, as Willamette recorded a 25-11 victory.

Linfield held leads of 3-1, 6-3 and 10-6 in the third set, before Willamette rallied to win the match. The Bearcats went on a 5-0 run to grab an 11-10 lead. Klotz served four of the points, including another service ace. The Wildcats tied the score with the next point. WU countered by winning three rallies in a row, including one kill each from Arianna Khan (So., OPP, Yuba, CA/River Valley HS) and Mason, to create a 14-11 advantage.

The Wildcats never led again, but trailed by just two points at 16-14, before a 4-1 run by the Bearcats gave Willamette a 20-15 lead. Linfield cut the margin to two points again at 24-22 on a kill by Cimmiyotti, but a kill from Lauren Kaaialii (So., OH, Honolulu, HI/Sacred Hearts Academy) of Willamette ended the match.

Willamette will take on Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Washington, on Saturday, Oct. 20. Match time is set for 5 p.m. (PDT). Pacific Lutheran, ranked 18th in the NCAA Division III Poll released by the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA), is 16-3 overall and is tied for second in the NWC with a 9-2 record.

Kendall Fox (Jr., OH, Dupont, WA/Steilacoom HS)

Big Moment of the Match for Willamette

Kendall Fox was the server on six consecutive points for
the Bearcats early in the first set. Her first serve was with
Willmette leading 4-2. While Fox served, Linfield committed
two attacking errors in a row and had a bad set, before WU
teammates Jo Stensaas and Lauren Stiles blocked an attack.
A kill by Natalie Klotz completed the run with WU leading, 9-2.