THIS WEEKEND: After a successful 2-0 home opening start to conference play, Pacific Lutheran will face its first road test this weekend in Oregon against Linfield and Lewis & Clark. The match against Linfield will be played first this Friday at 7 p.m. in McMinnville, Ore. and Saturday against Lewis & Clark in Portland at 7 p.m. as well.
NORTH, HUSTON, BJORKMAN MAKING STATEMENTS: PLU's dynamic duo of sophomore setter Samantha North and middle blocker Bethany Huston have been nothing short of spectacular thus far and both are earning nationally recognized statistical performances. North currently ranks herself 17th nationally in assists per set (10.57), a category in which the Lutes as a team rank second overall in all of Division III (13.0 assist/set). Huston has been active on both offense and defense ranking herself fifth nationally in blocks per set with 1.38 b/s. Any balls getting by Huston are dug out by senior libero Blair Bjorkman and the Pacific Lutheran back row. Bjorkman has helped the Lutes to 20.16 digs per set, which ranks them 13th nationally. PLU is also amongst the national leaders in kills per set with 13.49, ranking them 16th in the nation.
PLU MOVES UP IN NATIONAL POLL: Pacific Lutheran moved up one spot in the American Volleyball Coaches Association Division III Top 25 poll, receiving 160 points to rank 19th. The Lutes had been ranked 20th for two consecutive weeks are holding down the No. 25 spot in he AVCA preseason poll.
TAMING THE WILDCATS: Linfield opened up their 2012 season with two conference wins against in-state rivals beating Willamette 3-2 and sweeping Lewis & Clark 3-0. The Wildcats sophomore contingents of outside hitters in Kailana Ritte-Camara and Leimomi Hookano have combined for 171 total kills and lead the offense against a stingy Pacific Lutheran front row defense who leads the Northwest Conference in total blocks with 80. The Lutes are looking to extend their win streak to 11 straight against the Wildcats after sweeping Linfield in 2011 without dropping a set. Linfield finished conference play a season ago in sixth position with an overall record of 6-10.
SQUARING OFF WITH THE PIOS: After dropping their first two conference matches, the Pioneers of Lewis & Clark hope to bounce back this weekend. With little doubt on who carries the bulk of the Pios' offensive load, senior outside hitter Jennifer Dowdy leads the attack and is second in the NWC with total kills (124) and fourth conference-wide in kills per set (3.26). Lewis and Clark is also anchored defensively by senior libero Elena Hoff who leads the team with 5.13 digs per set. The Lutes split matches with the Pioneers a season ago, winning the opening match in Parkland 3-0 before battling to a five set loss in Portland, Ore. later that season. Lewis & Clark finished last year at fourth place with a 9-7 conference mark (13-13 overall) and return 11 players from a season ago.
PLU 3, WHITWORTH 1: Haley Urdahl had 11 kills; Bethany Huston added 10 and Samantha North directed the offense with 44 assists to pace the Lutes to victory. Amy Wooten had nine kills and a .421 attack percentage, Blair Bjorkman led her team with 24 digs, and Huston added three solo blocks and two block assists. Huston was honored prior to the match for leading all of Division III volleyball in blocks per set last season. The Lutes' first set performance was as impressive as any this early in the season as they compiled an impressive .438 attack percentage with 15 kills and just one error in 32 attempts. A total of six different players had at least two kills in the set, led by Urdahl with four on just seven swings. On the defensive side, the team recorded three team blocks with both Urdahl and Huston recording two block assists apiece. Pacific Lutheran never trailed in the set, opening up an 8-3 lead that later reached double digits at 20-10 on a kill by Allison Wood. The team's biggest lead came with the final score. Whitworth held the early advantage in the second set, building an 8-4 margin with Kristine Kardell getting three kills and Jalana White adding two more. A Pirates attack error opened the door to a 6-0 PLU spurt, including two kills each by Wood and Amy Wooten, and the Lutes were on top 10-8. Whitworth eventually tied the match at 12-12 on a kill by Nicole Leonard and later at 17-17 on Abi Hedlund's kill, but the Lutes scored eight of the last 10 points to take a 2-0 lead in sets. Wood led the Lutes with four kills while Urdahl and Wooten both added three. Kardell was impressive for the Pirates with six kills and just one error in nine attack attempts. White took over for Whitworth in the third set, registering seven kills with one error in 14 swings. The teams battled on mostly even terms through the midway point when Pacific Lutheran took a 15-12 lead on a kill by North. The Pirates responded by scoring 10 of the next 11 points to take a 22-16 advantage. Appropriately enough, White closed out the set with kills on two of Whitworth's final three points. Whitworth hit .344 in the set compared to .000 for PLU. The fourth set turned on the play of Huston, PLU's middle blocker from Kennewick. She had five kills and no errors in eight attempts and added a pair of solo blocks. The visitors from Spokane took an 8-4 lead before the Lutes surged ahead, 12-11, on a Huston kill. The teams were later tied at 15-15 before PLU pulled away and eventually won the set and match on North's eighth kill. PLU finished with a .223 attack percentage compared to .152 for Whitworth. White led all players with 14 kills and she was joined by Hedlund with 11 kills and Kardell and Leonard with 10 apiece. Shawna Korshavn had 29 assists and Leonard led both teams with 26 kills. Whitworth finished with five team blocks, including five block assists by White.
PLU 3, WHITMAN 0: Pacific Lutheran compiled an impressive .430 attack percentage and five different players had at least seven kills each as the Lutes defeated Whitman, 25-12, 25-17, 25-14, in a Northwest Conference volleyball match played Saturday on Olson Auditorium's Names Family Court. The Lutes rolled up an outstanding 13-point win in the first set by hitting .368 on 16 kills and two errors in 38 attacks, and it got better from there. The second second showed 17 kills and two errors in 32 swings, and in the third set the Lutes had 14 kills and no errors in 30 attack attempts. Kelsey Pacolt and Haley Urdahl both finished with nine kills, Pacolt hitting .615 and Urdahl finishing at .429. Allison Wood, Amy Wooten and Bethany Huston all added seven kills for the winners. Samantha North ran the offense to perfection with 38 assists and five kills of her own on 11 attempts. Defensive, the Lutes had 12 digs apiece from Amber Aguiar and Blair Bjorkman. Whitman's Jillian Davis led all player with 11 kills as the Missionaries finished wtith a .101 team attack percentage. Taylor Aschenbrenner had 19 assists and Hannah Linsenmayer led players from both teams with 14 digs. Whitman managed just one block in the three-set match. In the opening set the teams were tied at 1-1, but that was as close at the Missionaries got as the Lutes gradually pulled away. Whitman had an early lead 3-2 lead in the second set following a PLU service error, and it tied the score at 8-8 on a kill by Olivia Nielson, but against the Lutes pulled away for the win. In the final set the Lutes scored the first five points on North's serve and they were never headed.
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By Joe Rayburn, student assistant