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October 17, 2012

Volleyball Set For Six Straight Home Matches

THIS WEEKEND: Pacific Lutheran returns home this weekend for two crucial Northwest Conference matches against Linfield and Lewis & Clark. The conference-leading Lutes are set to rematch with the Wildcats this Friday at 7 p.m. followed by Saturday's matchup against the Pioneers at 7 p.m. as well. Both matches will be held in Olson Auditorium.

THE HOME STRETCH: The Lutes are geared for a six-match homestand - including five against conference opponents - and will hope to see a conference title return to Parkland after falling just short of achieving hardware hopes a season ago. Mixed in with the five conference matches is a non-conference contest against Saint Martin's on Tuesday, Oct. 23. At 9-1 in conference play, PLU holds a two-match cushion on rival Puget Sound and upstart Pacific and hopes to keep the Loggers and Boxers. The Lutes host both teams during their home stand, Pacific coming here on Oct. 26 and UPS on Halloween night. To date, Pacific Lutheran has played only three of its 18 matches on The Names Family Court in Olson Auditorium.

STILL GOING STRONG: Despite dropping one match against the Whitman Missionaries last weekend in eastern Washington, the Lutes still remain in the AVCA Division III Top 25 coaches' poll for the seventh straight week. PLU dropped just two spots from a week ago to No. 16 nationally. Ironically, though the Lutes have a better win-loss record and are two games ahead of Puget Sound in the conference standings, UPS is actually ranked ahead of PLU. Try to figure that one out.

REVISITING THE WILDCATS: Pacific Lutheran was challenged in the second set in on the Sept. 21 matchup in Ted Wilson Gym in McMinnville, Ore., before dispatching the host 'Cats in three straight sets. The Lutes exploded to a 25-11 first set victory before battling out a close 25-20 second set contest. The Lutes capped off the night with a strong 25-16 third set to conclude a 3-0 sweep of Linfield. The outside hitting contingent of Kelsey Pacolt and Allison Wood lead the Lutes with nine kills apiece while outside hitter Haley Urdahl and middle blocker Bethany Huston tallied seven kills of their own. Huston supplemented her offense with two solo blocks while senior libero Blair Bjorkman registered 23 digs. Linfield's sophomore setter Audrey Frazier is currently fifth in the conference, orchestrating her offense to the tune of 8.71 assists per set 

ROUND TWO WITH THE PIOS: Lewis & Clark has been struggling to find a rhythm all season long, sitting in last place in NWC play with a 2-8 record. In the last meeting with the Lutes, however, the Pioneers managed to take the opening set 25-17 before PLU rallied behind kills from Wood and Urdahl; the two combined for 19 on the night and the Lutes took the next three sets by scores of 25-10, 25-16, and 25-18. This time around the Lutes will host their Portland conference rivals and look to spread the offensive wealth through the distribution of sophomore setter Samantha North who is averaging 10.14 assists per set. Lewis & Clark's key offensive threat lies with sophomore outside hitter Kateleya Milan, who is averaging 3.44 kills per set.

NATIONAL LEADERS: Three PLU volleyball players continue to rank among the Division III national leaders in their specialties. Bethany Huston ranks fourth with 1.35 blocks per set, Samantha North is 30th with 10.14 assists per set, and Blair Bjorkman is 33rd with 5.68 digs per set. In the team "per set average," PLU is 12th in assists (12.32), 20th in kills (13.08), 23rd in digs (19.15), and 25th in blocks (2.17). PLU's 15-3 record equates to a .833 win percentage, which ranks 22nd in Division III.

PLU 3, WHITWORTH 2: Pacific Lutheran was pushed to five sets before finally defeating Whitworth, 17-25, 25-15, 25-20, 20-25, 15-11, last Friday in Spokane. Amy Wooten led the Lutes with 14 kills, followed by Kelsey Pacolt and Bethany Huston with 10 apiece. PLU had its troubles in the attack, however, managing to hit just .098 against a Whitworth team that finished with eight team blocks and 81 digs. Huston, one of the national leaders in blocks, ended with two solos and six assists, and Blair Bjorkman and Allison Wood cleaned up in the back row with 28 and 19 digs, respectively. Samantha North, who suffered a sprained ankle early in the contest, ended up with 39 assists.

WHITMAN 3, PLU 2: Whitman rallied from a two-set deficit to hand Pacific Lutheran its first Northwest Conference volleyball loss of the season by a 30-32, 20-25, 25-23, 25-15, 15-12 score at Sherwood Center. The Lutes were within a couple points of beating the Missionaries in three sets, but it was the home team that made the decisive plays at the end of the third set. PLU, feeling the effects of consecutive five-set matches on top of the long cross-state ride to Spokane and a three-hour trek to Walla Walla, could not keep up with Whitman in the final two sets. Allison Wood had 15 kills, Haley Urdahl 14 and Bethany Huston 12 for the Lutes, who got 49 assists from Samantha North and 25 digs from Blair BjorkmanAmy Wooten had nine kills and seven block assists.

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