Battle of the Northwest Conference Unbeatens
THIS WEEK: Pacific Lutheran, 2-0 in the conference, faces a stern challenge this week when it plays the NWC's other unbeaten teams in Puget Sound and Linfield. The Lutes travel across town to meet UPS, ranked No. 15 in the country, at 7 p.m. Wednesday. On Friday, they play Linfield in McMinnville, Ore., also at 7 p.m.
ALUMNI MATCH SLATED FOR SATURDAY: The annual volleyball alumni match is slated for 6 p.m. Saturday in Olson Auditorium. Alums interested in playing may contact PLU head coach Kevin Aoki at 253-535-8799.
NWC PRESEASON POLL: For what it's worth, Northwest Conference coaches picked PLU to win its fourth consecutive conference championship and its fifth in the past six seasons. The Lutes won outright conference titles in 2004, 2007 and 2008 and shared the NWC title in 2006 with Linfield. The Lutes received six of nine first-place votes and a total of 84 points, followed by Puget Sound with three first-place votes and 74 points and Linfield with 56 total points.
LUTES STAY AT NO. 19: For the second consecutive week, Pacific Lutheran is ranked No. 19 in the AVCA Division III Coaches Top 25 Poll. PLU had been ranked No. 10 in the Sept. 8 poll, the highest-ever ranking for a Pacific Lutheran volleyball team, but four losses to nationally ranked opponents resulted in a drop to No. 19 in the poll.
JOYNT EARNS NWC HONOR: Pacific Lutheran middle blocker Kelcy Joynt earned Northwest Conference Player of the Week honors after leading the Lutes to a pair of conference victories over George Fox and Pacific last weekend. During a weekend in which the Lutes played some of their best volleyball this season, Joynt stood out from the crowd. The senior from Wasilla, Alaska, accumulated 21 kills and hit .419 in the two matches. She also contributed two solo blocks, eight block assists, 18 digs and three service aces in the two PLU wins.
LUTES AT LOGGERS: For the third time this season, Pacific Lutheran will head into the UPS Fieldhouse to take on the Puget Sound Loggers. The two teams faced each other twice at the season-opening Puget Sound Premier tournament, the Lutes winning the first meeting in straight sets (25-10, 25-19, 25-19), and the Loggers coming back to take the tournament title in five sets (24-26, 20-25, 25-23, 25-19, 15-9). Puget Sound enters Wednesday's match with an 8-2 overall record, including 2-0 in the conference, and a No. 15 national ranking. Lindsey Denman averages 2.58 kills per set and Brynn Blickenstaff chips in with an average of 2.37. Stephanie Harvie and Erika Greene share the setting responsibilities, and Kallie Kamphaus has been tough at the net with an average of 1.19 blocks per set. Leigh Sumida, the libero, is a tough back row player who averages 3.72 digs per set. Whenever these two teams go head-to-head you can generally expect an exciting and closely contested match.
WILDCATS IN THEIR HOUSE: The Lutes face the Linfield Wildcats, 5-4 overall and 2-0 in the conference, who are coming off of nice road wins at Whitworth and Whitman. Emily Vuylsteke has been Linfield's go-to player for several years, but Katie Leavitt leads her team with an average of 2.76 kills per set, followed by Vuylsteke at 2.58. Tara Hill leads the back row with 3.77 digs per set.
LUTES SWEEP BRUINS: Pacific Lutheran, winner of three straight Northwest Conference volleyball championships, started its title defense last Friday night with a 25-18, 25-22, 25-21 victory over George Fox in Olson Auditorium. PLU's three-pronged attack of outside hitters Beth Hanna and Kelsie Moore and middle blocker Kelcy Joynt was in good form as the trio combined for 28 of the Lutes' 39 total kills. Moore, a sophomore, led the Lutes with 10 kills and hit .286 in the match. Joynt, a senior, finished with nine kills and hit .318, while Hanna had nine kills and finished with a .171 hitting percentage.
PACIFIC FALLS IN STRAIGHT SETS: Pacific Lutheran jumped on Pacific in a first set rout and went on to defeat the visiting Boxers, 25-10, 25-19, 25-16, in a conference match played Saturday night in Olson Auditorium. In the opening set, the Lutes had 13 kills and only two errors in 23 attempts, a .478 hitting percentage. More impressive than that, however, were their seven team blocks, including a solo block and four block assists by Kelcy Joynt. Beth Hanna, a two-time All-America outside hitter for the Lutes, had her most impressive hitting night of the season with 14 kills and no errors in 25 attempts, a .560 attack percentage. Joynt added 12 kills and one error in 21 attempts, a .524 mark, and Erin Bremond had five kills and hit .500 for the match. As a team, the Lutes were a season-best .387 in the hitting category. Sarah Beaver, the team's junior setter, had 32 assists and five kills of her own. Joynt finished the match with one solo block and six block assists and Katy Tauscher chipped in with six block assists. Brenna Archibald led all players with 13 digs.
COACH KEVIN AOKI SAYS: "We played well this weekend, especially Saturday night. We passed the ball well, which enabled us to have all kinds of options on offense, and that is why we hit such a high percentage. I think that was the most blocks we ever had in a match. It thought Kelcy Joynt had a great weekend. We've got a tough week ahead with playing the other undefeated teams in Puget Sound and Linfield."
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