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Nationally Ranked Lutes Back to Oregon for Two Matches

WEEKEND OUTLOOK: Pacific Lutheran, ranked No. 18 in the American Volleyball Coaches Association Division III Top 25, heads back to Oregon this weekend for two more Northwest Conference matches. The Lutes will take on conference rival and third-place Pacific this Friday in Forest Grove before heading to Salem for Saturday's match against the Willamette Bearcats. Both games are set for 7 p.m.

MOVING ON UP: For the fourth consecutive week, the Lutes have been ranked in the AVCA Division III Coaches Poll. Pacific Lutheran moved up one more spot from last week to 18th nationally.

BOUT WITH THE BOXERS: Pacific enters the weekend with a 3-1 record in NWC play and averaging 11.88 kills per set against conference opponents, placing them third behind Puget Sound and the Lutes. Freshman outside hitter Marie Rewick leads the Boxers in total kills with 119 while teammate and middle blocker Mariah McHolland leads the Pacific front row defense with 33 total blocks. The Lutes have dominated the all-time series against the Boxers, holding a record of 46-22. PLU is also looking to win its 18 straight match against its Oregon foe.

TAMING THE BEARCATS: Willamette has yet to find a conference win but will seek its first this weekend against visiting Pacific Lutheran and Puget Sound.  The Bearcats are currently 0-4, but still present dangerous attacking threats up front, leading the NWC in kills against other conference opponents. Senior outside hitter Madisyn Leenstra has carried the bulk of the offensive attack for the Bearcats averaging 3.21 kills per set while her teammate in the middle, junior Carly Hargrave, leads the team with 29 total blocks. The Lutes own the all-time series against the Bearcats with a 41-31 overall record and have won the last 15 consecutive matches.

AMONG NATIONAL LEADERS: For the second consecutive year middle blocker Bethany Huston is among the Division III nationals leaders in blocks per set. Huston was the Division III leader a year ago with an average of 1.54 block per set, and entering this week's play she ranks sixth with 1.39 blocks per set. PLU ranks 24th as a team with 2.22 blocks per set. The Lutes ranks fourth in the nation with an average of 12.61 assists per set, led by Samantha North, 21st nationally with 10.27 per set. PLU is 19th in kills per set (13.23), 16th in digs per set (19.7), and 31st in winning percentage (10-2, .833). Individually, Blair Bjorkman is 34th in digs per set (5.66) and North is 46th in hitting percentage (.353).

PLU 3, LINFIELD 0:  Kelsey Pacolt had nine kills and hit .533 for the match last Friday night as Pacific Lutheran defeated Linfield, 25-11, 25-20, 25-16, in Northwest Conference volleyball action at Ted Wilson Gymnasium.Pacolt, a senior outside hitter from Anchorage, Alaska, had only one error in 15 attacks and she tied Allison Wood for team-high honors with the nine kills. Joining the PLU atack were Haley Urdahl and Bethany Huston with seven kills apiece.Samantha North had 29 assists and four service aces, and Blair Bjorkman added four more aces, to help pace the PLU offense. Defensively, Huston had two solo blocks an three blocks assists, and when the ball got past her Bjorkman was there to register 23 digs.

PLU 3, L&C 1: Trailing in a Northwest Conference match for the first time this season, Pacific Lutheran came back to defeat Lewis & Clark, 17-25, 25-10, 25-16, 25-18, last Saturday night at Pamplin Sports Complex. Despite coming into the match without a conference victory, the Pioneers seemed undaunted at the task of facing a nationally ranked opponent. They had 16 kills and just three errors while hitting .371 in the first set victory. PLU, meanwhile, had just nine kills and a .125 percentage in the set. In three previous NWC wins the Lutes had lost only one set, and falling behind 1-0 in this one seemed to provide a wake up call. They built a double-digit lead at 14-4 and added on from there. As good as the L&C attack was in the first set, it struggled in the second set with a -.184 percentage., including 10 attack errors. In fact, the Pios had a negative attack percentage in the final three sets. Pacific Lutheran spread 45 kills among eight different players, including a team-high 10 from Urdahl and nine more from Wood. The Lutes had 11 team blocks, led by Huston and Amy Wooten with five assists apiece. Samantha North had 32 assists, 11 digs, one solo block and three block assists, and Blair Bjorkman led all players with 21 digs.

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