By Robert McKinney, Assistant Athletics Director, Communications
WALLA WALLA, Wash. -- Willamette University benefited from strong serving against on Saturday, Nov. 2, as the Bearcats amassed eight service aces and only three serving errors in a 3-0 victory over Whitman College in a Northwest Conference match at the Sherwood Center. The Bearcats defeated the Blues, 28-26, 25-16, 25-22.
The win upped Willamette to 7-16 on the season, 6-8 in the NWC. Whitman dropped to 3-17 overall, 3-11 in the NWC. In five of Willamette's seven wins, the Bearcats have earned more aces than serving errors.
In the win at Whitman, Jennifer Lane (Sr., MH, Salinas, CA/Notre Dame HS) led the serving success with four aces. Emma Porter (Fy., S, Honolulu, HI/Mid-Pacific Institute), Brooke Lohuis (Fy., S, Dublin, CA/Dublin HS), Lauren Stiles (Sr., OH, Altadena, CA/Flintridge Preparatory School) and Dani Queja (Fy., OH, Ewa Beach, HI/Maryknoll School) each contributed one ace.
Willamette's attacking efforts were led by Natalie Klotz (So., OH/OPP, Bonner Springs, KS/Bonner Springs HS), who finished with 13 kills and a .290 hitting percentage. Queja tacked on 10 kills and hit .250, while Lane registered nine kills and hit .214. Porter collected 27 assists.
On defense, Shyla Sato (Fy., LIB/DS, Honolulu, HI/MId-Pacific Institute) supplied Willamette with a match-high 21 digs, giving her 10 or more digs in 13 consecutive matches and in 21 of 23 matches overall. Stiles added 10 digs, while Lane provided four block assists.
"We finally played a match where we were pushed and we pushed back. It was a good, tough match for us to win. We put enough pressure on them to make some runs of critical points. Emma did another fine job of spreading the offense. And it's finally nice to have Lauren Stiles back on the court (after an injury)!"
— Willamette Head Coach Tom Shoji
Ava McCabe of Whitman topped all players with 16 kills and a .397 hitting percentage. Elyse Benavides was credited with 13 kills for the Blues. Claire McCarthy and Tate Cadang each recorded 13 digs, while Emma Anderson collected 24 assists. The Blues earned five service aces and had four serving errors.
Whitman put pressure on the Bearcats early in the match, as the Blues zoomed out to an 8-2 lead in the first set. WU eventually trailed 11-4, but the Bearcats used a 5-0 run, including two aces by Lane, to cut the lead to two points. A bit later, Willamette tied the score four times between 16-16 and 19-19. The Blues then added two points for a 21-19 advantage on their way to building leads of 23-20 and 24-22.
WU fought off two set-points to tied the score at 24-24. Whitman gained additional set-points at 25-24 and 26-25, but a kill from Kyana Benjamin (Jr., MH, Lubbock, TX/Lubbock HS) and a bad set by the Blues, kept the Bearcats in the set. An attacking error by Benavides gave WU its first set-point at 27-26, and Lohuis completed the win with a service ace.
In the second set, Willamette led 5-1, but the Blues tallied the next seven points. The Bearcats trailed 11-7 after 18 rallies, but put together a 6-1 run to grab a 13-12 lead. The teams remained close for several points until the Bearcats turned a 15-14 deficit into a 24-15 advantage with a massive 10-0 run.
The streak of rallies included three kills by Lane, one kill each for Klotz and Stiles, and an ace by Queja. It was Queja who served for nine of WU's points during the run. A kill by Christina Boxberger of Whitman ended the surge, but a kill from Klotz ended the set at 25-16.
Willamette grabbed a 7-4 led in the third set, but Whitman tied the score at 8-8 and the team were later tied at 10-10 on a kill by Benavides. A bad set by Whitman put Willamette in front, and the Bearcats never trailed again. The match stayed close, with WU's largest led at four points on several occasions, including 22-18 after Lane pounded a kill.
Three straight points for the Blues cut the margin to 22-21, but a combo block by Porter and Lane stopped the mini-run. Lane added a service ace to give the Bearcats a 24-21 lead. Benavides responded with a kill to reduce Whitman's deficit to two points. Klotz ended the next rally with a kill, as the Bearcats closed out the match with a 25-22 victory.
Up next for the Bearcats is Senior Night at Cone Field House on Friday, Nov. 8. Match time is set for 7 p.m. (PST).