Willamette Wins First Set, but George Fox Rallies for 3-1 Victory

Jaiden Mason (Fr., S/OPP, Charlotte, NC/Charlotte Christian School)
Jaiden Mason (Fr., S/OPP, Charlotte, NC/Charlotte Christian School)

By Robert McKinney, Assistant Athletics Director, Communications

NEWBERG, Ore. -- Willamette University won the first set, 25-19, but George Fox University rallied to take the next three sets, 25-12, 25-15, 25-13, as the Bruins defeated the Bearcats, 3-1, in a Northwest Conference match on Saturday, Oct. 7. GFU improved to 4-7 overall, 3-5 in the NWC, while the Bearcats fell to 5-11, including 2-6 in the NWC.

Danyle Dupray of George Fox earned a match-high 19 kills with a .255 hitting percentage. Laney Search provided the Bruins with 29 assists, while teammate Madison Ross added 21 assists. Sophia Lawrence registered 21 digs, to lead four Bruins with double-digit defensive totals.

Willamette played without its leading attacker, Kendall Fox (So., OH, Dupont, WA/Steilacoom HS), for the second consecutive match due to injury. On Saturday, Madison Haley (So., MH, Truckee, CA/Tahoe Truckee HS) and Arianna Khan (Fr., OPP, Yuba, CA/River Valley HS) each pounded out five kills. Haley achieved a .417 hitting percentage with no attacking errors and 12 total attacks. Jaiden Mason (Fr., S/OPP, Charlotte, NC/Charlotte Christian School) contributed four kills on six attacks for a .667 hitting percentage. Mason also recorded 19 assists, nine digs and one block assist. 

"We competed a little bit better tonight that last night, but we couldn't maintain our intensity. Our inexperience really showed," Willamette Head Coach Tom Shoji said.

The Bearcats have seven freshmen and six sophomores on its roster.

In the first set, Willamette held a slim 6-5 margin after a kill by GFU's Delaney Cruz, but the Bearcats expanded the margin to 13-8 with a 7-3 run. The offfensive surge included a service ace and a kill by Larsen Fellows (Jr./So., OH, Homer, AK/Homer HS), plus one kill each by Dreux Bertolucci (Jr., OH, Cottonwood, CA/West Valley HS/Shasta College) and Mason.

Willamette kept the lead for the remainder of the set. The Bruins pulled within three points at 13-10 and 15-12, but four consecutive points by the Bearcats created a 19-12 advantage. Elena Vasquez (Fr., DS/OH, Kingston, WA/North Kitsap HS) completed the run with a service ace. WU won the set, 25-19.

The second set featured five ties and four lead changes in the first 14 points, which ended with a 7-7 deadlock. GFU scored the next six points for a 13-7 lead. The Bruins were in front 19-11 a bit later. WU earned the next point on a kill by Khan, before George Fox closed out the set with a 6-0 run. The Bruins hit .306 during the set with 16 kills and five attacking errors.

George Fox built an 8-4 lead in the third set. Willamette cut the margin to 8-7 following three attacking errors by the Bruins. GFU stayed in front until the end of the set. Even so, the Bearcats trailed by the slimmest of margins at 13-12 after scoring back-to-back points on a kill by Haley and an attacking error by Paige O'Rear of George Fox.  

The next seven points were won by the Bruins, who extended their lead to 20-12. GFU won the set 25-15 to take a 2-1 lead in the match.

WU held a 7-4 edge in the fourth set following a service ace by Khan. The Bruins responded with a five-point surge to move in front, 9-7. A few points later, Emma Liband (Sr., MH, Sandpoint, ID/Sandpoint HS) pulled the Bearcats within 10-9 when she registered a kill. George Fox began to pull away by grabbing six points in a row, including a pair of service aces by Laney Search. The Bruins eventually took the set, 25-13.

Vasquez led Willamette with 20 digs during the match. She has earned 20 or more digs in four of the last seven matches for the Bearcats. Lawrence's 21 digs for GFU were followed by Dupray with 18 digs, Acarey Rosa with 15 digs and Laney Search with 11 digs.

Willamette produced 5.0 team total blocks while the Bruins recorded only 2.0 team blocks. Liband led the Bearcats with one block solo and two block assists. Fellows and Haley each finished with two block assists.

The Bearcats will play archrival Linfield College at Cone Field House on Friday, Oct. 13. Match time in Salem, Oregon, is scheduled for 7 p.m (PDT).