Whitworth Opens Up Some Space on PLU Volleyball
SPOKANE - After a slow start to the season, defending Northwest Conference champion Whitworth is starting to open up some space on its followers, including Pacific Lutheran.
The Pirates improved to 6-0 in conference play and opened up a two-game lead over Pacific Lutheran and Puget Sound on Saturday with a 23-25, 25-21, 25-23, 25-20 victory over the Lutes at the Whitworth Fieldhouse.
Whitworth, which is currently unranked in the American Volleyball Coaches Association Division III Top 25, swept the Lutes and Loggers this weekend to improve to 11-4 overall. Pacific Lutheran, which came into the match ranked No. 20 in the AVCA poll, is now 12-3 for the season and 4-2 in the conference.
PLU got strong play from its two middles, Erin Bremond and Bethany Huston, both of whom finished with 10 kills to lead the way. Huston, who leads the NWC in blocking, had one solo block and seven block assists, while Bremond added five block assists to help the Lutes to 13 team blocks.
Kaimi Rocha, the defending conference player of the year, had a season-high 22 kills and Amanda Grumbach added 17 to lead a relentless Whitworth offense to a season-best 66 finishes. The Pirates finished with eight team blocks and were particularly impressive with 78 digs, led by Grumbach with 20 and Rocha with 15.
The Lutes came out with intensity from the opening serve, grabbing a 6-1 lead, including a block and a kill by Huston. But the Pirates slowly pecked away at the lead, finally pulling into a 15-15 tie after back to back kills by Ka'ipo Rocha. Whitworth took the lead at 21-19 after a kill by Jalana White, but the Lutes outscored the Pirates 6-2 the rest of the set. Huston and Chelsea Nelson combined for blocks on the final three PLU points.
The Lutes once again jumped to an early lead in the second set, taking an 8-4 advantage on a kill by Nelson. But Whitworth answered with a 9-2 run, going ahead 13-10 on a block by Ka'ipo Rocha and Bree Riddle. Though the Lutes got within 15-14 on a kill by North, PLU never pulled back even with the Pirates in the set and Whitworth won it after a service error by the Lutes.
The third set was the tightest of the night. It included 11 ties and six lead changes as the teams exchanged blow for blow. PLU went up 12-9 following a Pirate attack error, but Whitworth rallied to a 17-16 lead on a block by Riddle and Kristine Kardell. The Lutes took their final lead of the set at 20-19 on another kill by Nelson before Whitworth went up 23-21 on a kill by Kaimi Rocha. The Pirates ended the set on a kill by Jalana White.
Whitworth appeared to be on the way to an easier win in the fourth set when a PLU attack error gave the Pirates a 12-7 lead. But the Lutes would have none of it, coming back to tie the set at 13-13 on a block by North and Bremond. PLU tied the set for a final time at 16-16 following a Pirate service error, but Kaimi Rocha sparked a quick run and her kill gave the Bucs a 20-17 lead.
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