Volleyball Enters Second Half Of NWC Schedule
THIS WEEK: The Pacific Lutheran University volleyball teams continues its Northwest Conference schedule this week with two matches in Oregon against Willamette University and Lewis & Clark College. Following home wins this past weekend over visiting Linfield College and Pacific University, the Lutes improved their overall record to 14-3. Pacific Lutheran's 6-2 mark in NWC play has them tied for second place with the University of Puget Sound. With PLU back in the hunt for a NWC championship, every match will prove to be crucial down the stretch. On Friday night, the Lutes open their weekend in Oregon in Salem, as they square off with the Willamette Bearcats. Pacific Lutheran comes back the next night, in Portland, Ore. with a match against surging Lewis & Clark College. Both matches are set to begin at 7 p.m.
NWC RACE HEATING UP: Both PLU and UPS found renewed hope in the race for the conference crown this week when Whitworth University surprisingly dropped a 3-0 decision to Lewis & Clark. The loss dropped the Pirates conference record to 7-1, bringing both the Lutes and Loggers within one match of WU. To add to the race for the top spot, by way of a 5-3 NWC record, Pacific University sits only two games behind Whitworth. As the second half of the NWC schedule begins, all four of these squads have a chance to top the standings at season's end.
TAKING TWO ON THE BEARCATS: Having lost four of its past five matches, the Willamette Bearcats sit in a tie for sixth-place in the NWC. At 6-11 on the year, Willamette has struggled to find consistency in 2011 and has only been able to win back-to-back matches once. Last time these two programs met, on Sept. 16 in the NWC opener for both teams, the Lutes powered past Willamette with a 3-0 victory. Seniors Erin Bremond and Kelsie Moore paced the Lutes with eleven and nine kills respectively. With that win, PLU added to its now 14-match win streak over the Bearcats. PLU will look to make it 15 straight this weekend in Salem.
SURGING PIONEERS: The Lewis & Clark Pioneers come into this weekend's matches on the heels of two big wins at home over Whitworth and Whitman College. Although the Pioneers sit in fifth-place with a 4-4 mark in NWC action, they may prove to be a dangerous team in the second half of conference play. The Pio's are led offensively by freshman Kataleya Milan and senior Margaret Dowling. Milan leads the team with 148 kills while Dowling follows shortly behind with 141 kills on the year. Last time the two times met, on Sept. 17 in Parkland, the Lutes cruised to a 3-0 victory. Kelsie Moore led all players with 12 kills. The win improved the Lutes winning streak over L&C to 14 matches.
PLU 3, Pacific 1: Pacific Lutheran broke up a logjam for second place in the Northwest Conference standings by defeating the visiting Pacific Boxers, 25-9, 25-22, 23-25, 25-19, in a match played Saturday night in Olson Auditorium. The two teams came into the match tied with Puget Sound for second place in the standings, all with 5-2 records. The Lutes (14-3 overall) are now tied with UPS at 6-2, one game back of first-place Whitworth, while Pacific (11-6) drops into fourth with a 5-3 record. After the first set, there was little indication that the match would turn out as close as it did. That's because the host Lutes hit .304 in the set compared to -.067 for the Boxers. That was due in large part to the Lutes recording four team blocks, including two block assists each from Erin Bremond, Missy DeWalt and Bethany Huston. PLU also had four service aces in the set, including two by Blair Bjorkman. Carrying the momentum of the 25-9 first set, the Lutes continued their relentless attack on the visitors, building a 20-8 lead on three kills and two aces by Bremond, in addition to a host of Pacific errors. The Boxers rallied behind Kelsy Takashima and Alexa Block, eventually cutting the deficit to two points before the Lutes finally pulled out the set on a kill by Huston. After trailing by as many as four points in the third set, 13-9, Pacific came storming back to grab the 25-23 victory. Block continued to show her offensive prowess with four kills, and the Boxers threw up some blocks, led by Malea Webb and Takashima, that stymied the Lutes. In the deciding set, the Lutes grabbed a quick 2-0 lead and they never trailed, eventually ending it on another Huston kill. Block led the Boxers with 16 kills and a .211 attack percentage, and she was all over on defense with 26 digs. Pacific had six team blocks, including five block assists each by Takashima and Webb. Takashima also finished the match with nine kills. For the Lutes, Bremond was tough in the middle with 16 kills and an impressive .519 attack percentage. She also had a three service aces, one solo block and three block assists. Samantha North finished with 43 assists and two of PLU's 10 service aces, and Bjorkman led her team wtih 29 digs.
PLU 3, LINFIELD 0: Kelsie Moore celebrated her birthday in spectacular fashion Friday night in Olson Auditorium, leading Pacific Lutheran to a 25-17, 25-19, 25-14 Northwest Conference volleyball win over the visiting Linfield Wildcats. Moore, a senior outside hitter from Oregon City, Ore., who earned 2010 all-conference first team honors, was at her best against the Wildcats, crushing a match-high 12 kills with no errors in 24 attempts. That, of course, figures out to a .500 attack percentage, her best of the year. With Moore swinging at a high rate, and with senior middle blocker Erin Bremond continuing her recent outstanding play with 11 kills and a .600 attack rate, the 23rd-ranked Lutes (13-3 overall, 5-2 NWC) were simply too much for the 'Cats (7-9, 2-5) to handle. PLU fell behind 2-0 in the first set, but immediately got things straightened out, eventually pulling away from a 4-4 tie. With Moore pounding two kills and Bremond adding one, PLU took a 12-6 lead before Linfield rallied with six straight points, five on Kelsey Ludin's serve. Bremond ended that 6-0 run with a kill, and the Lutes pulled away for good. Linfield came out hot in the opening moments of the second set, taking a 5-0 lead on Samantha Lau's serve and forcing PLU head coach Kevin Aoki to call a time out. Victoria Thompson and Tara Hill both had kills to spearhead the quick start. The Lutes rallied back and eventually tied the game at 8-8 on a service ace by Amber Aguiar. In fact, Aguiar's serve proved crucial as the Lutes scored six straight points, including kills by Bremond and Moore. Linfield rallied to tie the set at 11-11 when Thomson and Leimomi Hookana blocked Bremond at the net, but that was a close at the visitors would get. PLU broke away from a 17-16 advantage on consecutive kills by Moore, and it finally wrapped up the second set when Bremond and Chelsea Nelson drove down kills. For the third set in a row, Linfield took the early lead at 3-0, but once the Lutes went ahead 7-6 on a kill by Samantha North, they were not to be stopped. Holding a 13-12 lead, PLU closed out the match by scoring 12 of the final 14 points, with five of the points coming on Blair Bjorkman's serve. With Moore and Bremond leading the way, the Lutes hit .320 as a team, including a convincing .368 mark in the third set. North finished with 33 assists, Bjorkman provided the winners with 19 digs, and Aguiar had three service aces. The Lutes continued their impressive play at the net with 11 team blocks, including five block assists by both Bremond and Bethany Huston. For the Wildcats, Kailana Ritte-Camara led the way with eight kills, while Samantha Lau contributed 16 digs and Audrey Frazier 17 assists. The 'Cats managed to hit just .066 against PLU's strong defensive effort.