Lutes Play Three of Final Four at Home
THIS WEEKEND: Pacific Lutheran (15-7 overall, 9-3 NWC) hosts Willamette (8-14, 4-9), Friday, 7 p.m.; PLU hosts George Fox (9-13, 4-8), Saturday, 7 p.m.
THREE OF FOUR AT HOME: Pretty much needing to win out to have a chance of reaching NCAA Division III postseason play, Pacific Lutheran has the advantage of playing three of its final four Northwest Conference matches in Olson Auditorium. The Lutes are 5-1 at home this year, the only defeat coming in a non-conference match against Division II Saint Martin's. The Lutes currently occupy third place in the conference standings. Puget Sound is 11-1, followed by Whitworth at 10-2 and then PLU at 9-3. Puget Sound and Whitworth have split matches, Pacific Lutheran and Whitworth have split matches, and PLU and Puget Sound have yet to play for the second time (that comes next Wednesday, Nov. 3).
A NOTE ABOUT THE PLAYOFFS: The conference champion earns an automatic bid to the NCAA Division III playoffs, and after that a selection committee decides if any other NWC teams get picked for the regional tournament. After tying with Linfield for the Northwest Conference title in 2006, with both teams going to regionals, the Lutes have been the outright NWC champions each of the past three years. Each of those year, second-place Puget Sound has received an at-large berth in the regional tournament. Only in 2005, when conference champion Whitworth served as host, have two conference teams (Puget Sound and Linfield) also been invited as at-large entries.
THE FIRST TIME: PLU plays a pair of home matches this weekend, hosting Willamette on Friday night and George Fox on Saturday night. The Lutes beat both teams on the road the first time through the conference, taking Willamette in four sets and George Fox in three. On Oct. 1 against Willamette, Erin Bremond recorded a match-high 15 kills while hitting .478 to lead the Lutes to a 19-25, 25-14, 25-14, 25-19 victory. Pacific Lutheran finished the match with a .218 team hitting percentage, including .302 in the second set and .444 in the third set. Beth Hanna had 12 kills and 14 digs and Kelsie Moore added 12 kills. Sarah Beaver led the offense with 43 assists, Blair Bjorkman had 27 digs and Anna Buck added three service aces. The following night against George Fox, the Lutes took a 25-17, 30-28, 25-14 victory. Beaver registered 35 assists, nine digs and four kills and Hanna recorded 13 kills as the Lutes hit .271 against the Bruins. Missy DeWalt finished with a .462 attack percentage. PLU was also tough at the net with 8.0 team blocks, all coming on block assists, including four by Bremond and three each by Hanna, DeWalt and Bethany Huston. Bjorkman led the Lutes with 18 digs.
LUTES FALL TO SAINTS: In a non-conference match played Tuesday night in Olson Auditorium, irstyn Druzianich had 17 kills to lead the visiting Saint Martin's Saints to a 25-15, 25-21, 25-27, 25-11 win over the Lutes. Druzianich, who had a .368 attack percentage, helped pace a Saints offense that hit .219 for the match, including .306 in the first set, .263 in the second set and .409 in the final set. Teilissa Tua added 12 kills and also hit .480 in the match, while setter Kristeen Juarez had 40 assists. PLU head coach Kevin Aoki elected to play his starting group only in the first set, and after that it was time for the second unit to see the action. Bethany Huston led the Lutes with eight kills and a .467, while Hannah Harrison and Haley Urdahl both had six kills.
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