Lutes to Begin Conference Matches
LAST WEEKEND: The Pacific Lutheran volleyball team lost four straight matches to tough competition in last weekend's Asics Invitations at Washington University in St. Louis, Mo. The Lutes suffered four losses to teams all ranked in the Top 25 (according to the American Volleyball Coaches Association Division III national poll). The first day of the tournament proved to be a tough one as the Lutes lost both matches in four sets. First, they fell to No. 17 Wisconsin-Whitewater, 22-25, 25-23, 25-21, 25-14, and then it was host and No. 8 Washington University that topped the Lutes, 22-25, 25-22, 25-18, 25-12. Pacific Lutheran failed to end their weekend on a positive note, with Saturday's results showing a 25-16, 25-19, 25-23 loss to No. 18 Concordia (Minn.) and a 25-19, 25-23, 25-19 defeat to No. 4-ranked Ohio Northern. The Lutes received some positive recognition from the tournament as senior middle blocker Kelcy Joynt earned all-tournament honors.
Despite the losses, head coach, Kevin Aoki, reflected on the rough weekend with an upbeat attitude.
"We now know that we are not with those teams yet, but at the same token, we are not far behind," Aoki said. "Unless you start playing teams of that caliber, the players and coaches will never reach their full potential."
NWC Poll: Based on a poll given to the volleyball coaches of the Northwest Conference, the Pacific Lutheran volleyball team is the favorite to claim the 2009 NWC Conference Championship. The Lutes currently have three consecutive conference championships and a fourth would make them the first NWC school to win four straight volleyball titles since Willamette claimed five straight from 1991-1996. Out of nine votes, the Lutes received six predicting a first place finish at the end of conference play this season. The Lutes ended the 2008 season with a record of 20-7 and a conference record of 14-2, which granted them an opportunity to compete at the Division III Regional Volleyball Tournament.
CONFERENCE PLAY: The Pacific Lutheran volleyball team kicks off its regular season conference play this weekend with a set of matches on Friday and Saturday night. The Lutes face off on Friday against George Fox University and finish their weekend of play the following night against Pacific University. These are the first home matches for the Lutes and will take place in Olson Auditorium at 7 p.m.
The George Fox University Bruins were picked to finish seventh in the Northwest Conference Coaches Poll for this 2009 season. The Bruins 2008 season came to a close with a 12-14 record overall and a 6-10 conference record. George Fox returns this season with 10 letter winners, including four from the starting lineup. The Bruins have had a successful preseason so far, and hold a 5-1 record.
Saturday night competition will resume for the Lutes against the Boxers of Pacific University. The Boxers placed sixth in the NWC Coaches Poll and hope to move up in the standings behind the play of their sophomore middle, Kelsy Takashima, who was one of three freshmen to earn first team All-NWC honors last fall. The Boxers ended their 2008 volleyball season with an overall record of 7-17, with a record of 6-10 in conference play. Pacific has a current record this 2009 season of 5-3 with a big win over the nationally ranked No. 6 La Verne team.
LUTES FALL IN RANKINGS: After being ranked No. 10 in the American Volleyball Coaches Association Division III Coaches Top 25 Poll last week, the Lutes fall to No. 19. Pacific Lutheran is the only ranked team that currently holds a losing record (4-5). However, the last eight matches have all been against teams that are either currently ranked or have been. According to head coach, Kevin Aoki, the experience gained from the tournament was far more important that the Lute's win/loss record.
"Our pre-season was as tough as anyone's in the country and we hope that it makes us a better team for the tough competition ahead in the Northwest Conference," Aoki said.