By Robert McKinney, Assistant Athletics Director, Communications
LINCOLN, Neb. -- Willamette University rallied from a 2-0 deficit to win the final three sets and and grab a 3-2 victory over previously undefeated University of Wisconsin-Platteville on Saturday, Sept. 9, during the second day of the Prairie Wolf Invitational at Nebraska Wesleyan University. The Bearcats completed the comeback for a 14-25, 22-25, 25-18, 25-19, 15-10 win. WU improved to 3-4 overall, while UW-Platteville fell to 7-1 overall. Both teams ended the match with 2-1 records in the tournament.
The Bearcats won despite UW-Platteville earning a 58-38 advantage in kills. Willamette made up the deficit by committing just 19 attacking errors in the five sets, while UWP finished with 34 attacking errors. Willamette also gained an edge in serving, as the Bearcats recorded nine aces and eight errors, while the Pioneers achieved eight aces and 13 errors. In addition, WU made 10.0 team total blocks compared to 8.0 total blocks for UW-Platteville.
"Great team effort. Great team comeback. Just really played well," said Willamette Head Coach Tom Shoji. "Platteville was undefeated going into our match, so they were playing very well and they were probably the best team at this tournament."
Willamette's limited attacking errors and quality all-around play led to the rally and the win. Kendall Fox (So., OH, Dupont, WA/Steilacoom HS) registered 11 kills and five digs for the Bearcats. Jaiden Mason (Fr., S/OPP, Charlotte, N.C./Charlotte Christian School) provided 17 assists, nine digs and four total blocks. Elena Vasquez (Fr., DS/OH, Kingston, WA/North Kitsap HS) matched Mason with nine digs. Morgan Webster (Jr., S/DS, Milwaukie, OR/Milwaukie HS) subbed from the bench and recorded 11 assists and three service aces.
Emma Liband (Sr., MH, Sandpoint, ID/Sandpoint HS) and Jennifer Lane (So., MH/OH, Salinas, CA/Notre Dame HS) each contributed eight kills with strong hitting percentages, as Liband hit .538 and Lane hit .333. Lane also accumulated seven digs and a match-high eight total blocks.
"We really stepped up and played, so far his season, our best match for sure," Shoji commented. "It was just a total team effort by everybody. It was just great to see. Huge learning took place and it was a huge confidence builder because of who we played ... they're really good."
Allison Jensen topped UW-Platteville with 15 kills. She also earned seven digs and two block assists. Ashlee Moore pounded 14 kills and earned a .400 hitting percentage. Maddie Dower supplied 13 kills and 11 digs.
Grace Austin led the Pioneers with 19 digs, while Allie Carter was credited with 47 assists. Katie Jones achieved a team-high six total blocks.
UW-Platteville was in front throughout the first set. Willamette got as close a 9-7 after 16 points and trailed just 10-8 following a kill by Lauren Stiles (So., OH, Altadena, CA/Flintridge Preparatory School). The Pioneers tallied the next six points, including two kills by Dower, to take a 16-8 lead. UWP won the set, 25-14.
The Bearcats took a 3-2 lead in the second set, and later owned a 12-9 advantage on a combo block from Liband and Lane. Several points later, a kill by Fox gave the Bearcats a 14-10 margin. WU stayed in front until a 4-0 run by the Pionners sent UW-Plattevilel into an 18-16 lead. Willamette trailed by just one point several times toward the end of the set, including 20-9 on a service ace by Webster and 23-22 after a bad set by Platteville. Kills by Jensen and Dower led to a 25-22 victory for the Pioneers.
Willamette was in front throughout the third set and also led all the way in the fourth set. The Bearcats took leads of 4-1 and 10-6 int set #3, and later held a 19-13 edge after Fox pounded down a kill. The Pioneers pulled within 20-17 on a ill by Jensen, but WU ended the set with a 5-1 run. In the fourth set, Willamette held an 8-3 advantage. Later, the Bearcats led 12-6, but UW-Platteville rallied to within two points at 12-10 on a service ace by Carter and 15-13 on a kill by Moore. Willamette scored the next two points to start a 5-1 run and went on to claim a 25-19 win.
In the fifth set, Willamette surged out to a 4-1 lead. UW-Platteville eventually tied the scored at 5-5 and 6-6. Willamette gained a bit of space on the scoreboard with a 3-0 run, starting with a kill by Fox plus an attacking error and a ball-handling error by the Pioneers. UWP tallied the next point on a kill by Jensen, but a service error by the Pioneers, kills from Lane and Stiles, and a ball-handling error by Platteville gave WU a 13-7 lead. Moore registered a kill to start a 3-0 run that cut the lead to 13-10.
Stiles responded with a kill for the Bearcats. Willamette closed out the match with a combo block by Lane and Mason on an attack by Jensen.
Willamette will complete the Prairie Wolf Invitational by taking on the hosts from Nebraska Wesleyan. Match time is scheduled for 2 p.m. CDT/12 p.m. PDT.