By Robert McKinney, Assistant Athletics Director, Communications
SALEM, Ore. -- Willamette University earned a .302 team hitting percentage as the Bearcats rolled past Pacific Lutheran University, 25-15, 25-17, 25-21, during Senior Night at Cone Field House on Friday, Nov. 8. Seniors Jennifer Lane (MH, Salinas, CA/Notre Dame HS) and Lauren Stiles (OH, Altadena, CA/Flintridge Preparatory School) were honored following the match after both players made key contributions to Willamette's victory.
The Bearcats improved to 8-16 overall, including 7-8 in the Northwest Conference. WU will conclude the season at Pacific University on Saturday (Nov. 9) at 6 p.m. (PST). Pacific Lutheran ended its season with a 17-11 overall record and a 10-6 mark in the NWC.
Lane led the way by pounding a match-high 15 kills, hitting .542 and recording four block assists. Stiles provided five kills with only one attacking error, as she hit .235 to go along with nine digs and one block assist.
The Willamette seniors received plenty of help from their teammates.
Natalie Klotz (So., OH/OPP, Bonner Springs, KS/Bonner Springs HS) registered 12 kills, hit .241, earned nine digs and had two block assists. Dani Queja (Fy., OH, Ewa Beach, HI/Maryknoll School) achieved eight kills and seven digs.
Emma Porter (Fy., S, Honolulu, HI/Mid-Pacific Institute) supplied the Bearcats with 41 assists, 10 digs, and three block assists. Shyla Sato (Fy., LIB/DS, Honolulu, HI/MId-Pacific Institute) paced all players with 20 digs.
"The match was an incredible way to celebrate our seniors. Both Jen and Lauren played so well throughout the match. What a way to play for their last match in Cone Field House. It was another great team effort in front of some awesome fans, family and friends. We could not ask for a better ending of our home season. We will miss Jen and Lauren so much!"
— Willamette Head Coach Tom Shoji
For Pacific Lutheran, Danielle Skibiel registered 10 kills, six digs and two block assists. McKenzie Pfeiffer finished with six kills, while Emma Peters earned 11 digs. Halle Hetzler had 10 digs. Emily Dulaney was credited with 19 assists.
It was the second year in a row that the Bearcats swept a conference opponent on Senior Night. The Bearcats downed the University of Puget Sound, 25-21, 25-19, 25-22, during Senior Night on Friday, Nov. 2, 2018.
Against PLU, the Bearcats led 3-2 in the first set, but fell behind 6-4 and 9-7. Willamette score the next two points on a combo block by Lane and Porter plus a kill by Klotz. Those two rallies sparked a 10-2 run that gave WU a 17-11 lead.
The Lutes cut the margin to 17-13 on one kill each from Baylee Johnson and Pfeiffer. The Bearcats answered with a kill by Stiles. Kyana Benjamin (Jr., MH, Lubbock, TX/Lubbock HS) contributed to the next three points, as she teamed with Stiles for a combo block, added a kill, and combined with Queja for another block. WU led 21-13 on its way to a 25-15 win.
Willamette and Pacific Lutheran were tied 5-5 in the second set, before the Bearcats went on a 9-2 run for a 14-7 advantage. The run featured five kills from Lane in addition to two kills each by Queja and Klotz. The Bearcats led 16-10 five rallies later, and tacked on four points for a 20-10 margin. A 25-17 victory created a 2-0 lead in the match for Willamette.
The Bearcats surged out to a 10-6 lead in the third set, including two kills and a service ace by Klotz. PLU eventually tied the score at 10-10 on a kill by Jazz Alston. A bit later, the Lutes used a 3-1 run to claim a 17-15 lead. Several rallies later, PLU's margin was 19-16.
WU scored the next three points on a kill from Queja, a service ace by Steele Jasa, and a kill from Lane. The kill by Lane was a well-executed quick play by the Bearcats after PLU had blocked an attack back onto WU's side of the net. Sato kept the ball from hitting the floor, then Porter supplied Lane with a quick set, which Lane blasted down on the PLU side. The Lutes used their second and final timeout of the set with the score deadlocked at 19-19.
After the timeout, Willamette moved in front on a hitting error by Pacific Lutheran. A combo block by Lane and Porter created a two-point lead, and an attacking error by the Lutes gave the Bearcats a 22-19 edge. Hailey Iha stopped the 6-0 run with a kill for PLU, but Lane tacked on two kills for a 24-20 lead. Two rallies later, Lane ended the match with a kill.