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Conference-Leading Lutes Head East for Two Rematches

THIS WEEKEND: Pacific Lutheran volleyball will travel to eastern Washington for a rematch with the Whits. This Friday the Lutes will put their undefeated conference record up against defending Northwest Conference champion Whitworth in Spokane at 7 p.m. PLU will then make the trip to Walla Walla to take on Whitman at 7 p.m. Saturday.

MOVING ON UP: For the sixth straight week, Pacific Lutheran has been ranked in the American Volleyball Coaches Association Division III Top 25 coaches' poll. This week the Lutes jumped three spots N0. 14 nationally while cross-town rival Puget Sound fell three spots to No. 13, despite a 3-0 loss to the Lutes a week ago.

AOKI CLOSES IN ON 300 WINS: Kevin Aoki, in his 17th year as head volleyball coach at his alma mater, needs four more wins to earn his 300th career victory. Aoki, a six-time Northwest Conference Coach of the Year (1999, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2009) and three-time AVCA West Region Coach of the Year (1999, 2004 and 2007), has a 296-139 overall record and has led six PLU teams to outright or co- conference championships.

LEADING BY EXAMPLE: Pacific Lutheran continues to dominate several statistical categories throughout the Northwest conference. One of the most impressive is that three Lutes own the top three hitting percentages in conference play. Sophomore setter Samantha North, junior middle blocker Bethany Huston, and sophomore outside hitter Amy Wooten lead the conference with hitting percentages of .316, .318, and .287 respectively. Huston also leads the NWC with 1.41 blocks per set while North is second in conference averaging 10.38 assists per set. Defensively, senior libero Blair Bjorkman couldn't be sharper this season, leading all players in the NWC with 322 digs (5.75 digs per set).

NATIONAL STATISTICS: Bethany Huston, who led all of Division III in blocks per set a year ago, currently ranks fifth in the national statistics with her 1.41 blocks per set. As a team the Lutes are ranked 24th with 2.21 blocks per set. Samantha North ranks 22nd with 10.38 assists per set to lead a PLU team that ranks third overall with 12.68 assists per set. Blair Bjorkman is 25th with 5.75 digs per set, leading the way for the Lutes who are ranked 17th nationally with an average of 19.52. As a team, PLU ranks 13th in kills per set (13.3).

BJORKMAN HONORED: Blair Bjorkman was honored as conference player of the week with her 26 digs against Puget Sound last Wednesday followed up by her 20 dig performance against George Fox last Friday.

ROUND TWO WITH THE PIRATES: The defending Northwest Conference champions are hardly getting off to the start they did last season enroute to an NCAA tournament berth a year ago. At 2-6, Whitworth finds itself tied for sixth position heading into the second half of the 2012 season. When the teams played each other on Sept. 14 in Parkland, the Pirates' right side Jalana White led all players with 14 kills, but the Lutes' offensive arsenal combined for a team attack percentage of .421 to overwhelm the visiting Bucs in a 3-1 contest. Whitworth's White has carried the bulk of the attacking load thus far, tallying 178 total kills midway through the season.

REVISITING THE MISSIONARIES: Whitman has found itself right in the middle of the conference table at fifth position (3-5) at the midway point of the season and will be seeking revenge on a PLU side that blew away the visiting Missionaries in three quick sets in the initial matchup. Up front, Whitman is led defensively by the presence of senior middle blocker Olivia Nielson, who is second in the NWC behind PLU's Huston with 1.27 blocks per set. The Lutes fired on all cylinders in the first matchup with the Missionaries, boasting a .430 attack percentage and a 38-assist game from Samantha North. The first match's set scores were 25-12, 25-17, 25-14.

PLU 3, GEORGE FOX 0: PLU's balanced offensive attack was too much for the Bruins, who gamely tried to pull the upset in front of a noisy crowd of some 450 fans. PLU won last Friday's match 25-17, 25-23, 25-17. Haley Urdahl ended up with 11 kills, six in the first set, and Allison Wood and Bethany Huston contributed 10 apiece as the Lutes hit .212 as a team. Samantha North continued her outstanding play as the sophomore setter finished with 35 assists, three kills and three block assists. Blair Bjorkman had 20 digs and Amber Aguiar added thre of PLU's seven service aces.

PLU 3, PUGET SOUND 0: Wiping away the frustration of a 3-1 non-conference loss to Puget Sound during the season-opening Puget Sound Premier tournament, Pacific Lutheran opened up a two-game lead over its rivals in the Northwest Conference standings with a 25-20, 25-22, 25-23 victory last Wednesday at UPS. Allison Wood and Bethany Huston had 11 kills and Haley Urdahl added seven as the Lutes finished with a .213 attack percentage. Huston, who hit .476 in the match, added two solo blocks and two block assists, and as always Samantha North ran an efficient offense with 33 assists and three kills. Blair Bjorkman, PLU senior libero, had an incredible 26 digs, nearly nine per set, to easily lead both teams in that category.

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