TACOMA - Pacific Lutheran opened its 2012 volleyball season in great fashion Friday, defeating St. Olaf and Southwestern (Texas) in the Puget Sound Premier Tournament held at Memorial Fieldhouse.
Becca Holtgeerts had nine kills and three block assists to lead the Lutes, ranked No. 25 in the American Volleyball Coaches Association Division III Preaseason Poll, to a 25-23, 25-22, 25-21 sweep of St. Olaf in the Lutes' early afternoon opener. They came back several hours later and rallied past 19th-ranked Southwestern, 21-25, 23-25, 25-19, 25-18, 15-9.
Holtgeerts, a junior middle blocker, had her nine kills with no errors on 19 attempts for a .474 attack percentage in the first match. The Lutes hit .088 as a team, including a .176 mark in the opening set. Sophomore setter Samantha North finished with 26 assists, junior middle blocker Bethany Huston had five block assists, and senior libero Blair Bjorkman collected 17 digs.
St. Olaf hit just .008 against a PLU team that recorded one block solo and 12 block assists.
After a slow start against Southwestern, the Lutes attacked with authority in the final three sets. They had 19 kills and a .280 attack percentage in the 25-19 third set victory, and they hit an amazing .405 in the fourth set with 17 kills and just two errors in 37 attempts. The fifth-and-deciding set was nearly as good as PLU finished with a .300 percentage on 12 kills and three errors on 30 attempts.
For the match, PLU finished with a .243 attack rate compared to .192 for Southwestern.
As head coach Kevin Aoki had anticipated, the Lutes spread the wealth on offense as four players finished with double figures in kills. Huston led the way with 18 kills and a .406 attack percentage, while Haley Urdahl had 16 kills, followed by Allison Wood and Amy Wooten with 11 apiece. North and Chelsea Nelson both were flawless on offense, North finishing with nine kills and no errors and Nelson ending the game with seven kills and no errors. Both players hit over .400 in the match.
North added 59 assists, Huston had eight block assists and Nelson finished with five additional block assists as the Lutes ended the game with 11 team blocks compared to seven for Southwestern.
The back row defense was stellar as the Lutes finished with 109 total digs led by Bjorkman with 36, Amber Aguiar with 23, North with 20 and Wood with 15.
Rachel Thibodeau had 23 kills and 21 digs for Southwestern.
The Lutes play two more matches tomorrow, meeting UC Santa Cruz at 1 p.m. and Puget Sound at 5 p.m.
- PLU -