SALEM, Ore. - Pacific Lutheran won for the 10th time in the last 11 matches as it defeated Willamette, 26-24, 25-17, 27-25, in a Northwest Conference volleyball match played Saturday night in Cone Fieldhouse.
PLU, ranked No. 18 in the American Volleyball Coaches Association Division III Top 25 poll, improved to 12-2 overall with its sixth conference victory without a defeat, making it the only NWC squad without a loss.
The Lutes have won four of their NWC matches in straight sets, though the Bearcats, 3-10 overall and 1-5 in the conference, made this one difficult on the visitors.
In the opening set, PLU built leads of 9-6 and 15-12 only to see the Bearcats rally to tie the score. At 15-15, the Lutes used a pair of Amy Wooten kills to build a 20-16 lead, but again Willamette was equal to the task, tying the score at 23 and again at 24. At that point, Kelsey Pacolt notched consecutive kills to give Pacific Lutheran a 1-0 advantage in sets.
Of the three sets played, only the second set wasn't close as PLU blitzed to a 15-5 lead before building that to 21-8 when Samantha North and Bethany Huston stuffed a Willamette attack attempt. The Bearcats rallied to within six points at 22-16 on Madisyn Leenstra's service ace, but the Lutes eventually won the set to take a 2-0 lead at the intermission.
The third set provided plenty of action as Willamette raced out to a 4-0 advantage, only to see PLU take a 10-9 lead on a kill by Allison Wood. After that, the Bearcats managed a trio of three-point leads, the last one at 22-19, before Pacific Lutheran rallied to take the set and match.
Willamette was twice within a point of winning the set but the Lutes battled to keep it tied. With the score knotted at 25-25, Haley Urdahl's ace gave PLU a 26-25 lead, and when Huston and Pacolt combined to block Bearcat ace Leenstra at the net, the Lutes had the victory.
Leenstra was outstanding for Willamette with 14 kills and a .407 attack percentage.
As has been the case throughout the season, the Lutes used a balanced offensive attack. Huston was the kill leader in this one with nine, and she added eight block assists as PLU finished with 11 team blocks. North had six kills, 30 assists and five block assists, Wood added seven kills, and Pacolt had six kills and four block assists. Blair Bjorkman had 17 digs and Amber Aguiar added 14, along with two aces, to lead the back row defense.
The Lutes will play their fifth consecutive conference road trip this coming Wednesday when they travel across Tacoma to face the Puget Sound Loggers. The match is scheduled to start at 7 p.m. in Memorial Fieldhouse.
- PLU -