By Robert McKinney, Assistant Athletics Director, Communications
SALEM, Ore. -- In a Northwest Conference volleyball match that featured quick starts by each team in alternating sets, it was Willamette University that took an 8-3 lead in the decisive fifth set on its way to a 15-9 win in the set, as the Bearcats defeated George Fox University, 3-2, on Saturday, Oct. 6 at Cone Field House. The victory raised Willamette's record to 7-10 on the season and to 4-4 in the NWC. George Fox dropped to 7-9 overall, 1-7 in the NWC.
The Bearcats won 25-18, 17-25, 25-18, 18-25, 15-9. In the first set, WU grabbed an 8-1 margin. In the second set, GFU took a 7-2 lead. Willamette gained a 7-4 edge in the third set, and the Bruins attained a 12-4 advantage in the fourth set. Each time, the team with the early lead won the set.
"We had to go with Lauren Stiles (outside hitter) as an opposite (right-side hitter) due to some injuries and without much practice. What a nice job she did," Willamette Head Coach Tom Shoji said. "The whole team did well tonight and our players were very resilient. The start of set five is always critical. They (Bruins) made some errors that got us some breathing room and we capitalized on those and made some really nice plays to close them out."
Natalie Klotz (Fr., OHOPP, Bonner Springs, KS/Bonner Springs HS) provided the Bearcats with a team-high 13 kills. She also recorded four of Willamette's eight service aces, achieved 11 digs and was credited with three block assists. Stiles in her role as an opposite, registered nine kilsl and just two attacking errors, while earning a .280 hitting percentage. She also accumulated 11 digs. Kendall Fox (Jr., OH, Dupont, WA/Steilacoom HS) and Jennifer Lane (Jr., MH/OH, Salinas, CA/Notre Dame HS) each pounded out eight kills. Lane led Willamette with four total blocks.
Jaiden Mason (So., S/OPP, Charlotte, NC/Charlotte Christian School) supplied 34 assists to go along with 13 digs and six kills. She hit .278 during the match. Elena Vasquez (So., LIB/DS, Kingston, WA/North Kitsap HS) led WU with 22 digs. Arianna Khan (So., OPP, Yuba, CA/River Valley HS) added 14 digs.
Paige O'Rear of George Fox finished with a match-high 18 kills and hit .324. Alyssa Burch had 10 kills, while Danyle Dupray tallied nine kills and 29 digs. Sophia Lawrence made 23 digs, helping the Bruins attain a 91-80 edge for the match. GFU also held a 52-45 lead in kills, but had 33 attacking errors and hit .109. WU had 22 attacking errors and hit .139.
The Bruins led 2-0 in the fifth set, but Willamette scored the next four points, ending with a kill by Mason, to move in front, 4-2. GFU scored on the ensuing rally when Klotz committed an attacking error, but the Bearcats quickly responded with a 5-0 run for an 8-3 advantage. The offensive surge featured two service aces by Klotz and a kill by Mason. WU eventually held a 10-4 lead after another kill by Mason. The Bruins pulled within 10-6, but were unable to fully recover, as the Bearcats won the set, 15-9.
Willamette's 8-1 lead in the opening set disappeared as GFU went on a 9-2 run to create a 10-10 tie after an attacking error by the Bearcats. Willamette never fell behind even though the teams exchanged the next six points. WU pulled in front for good at 14-13 on a kill by Klotz, then added a kill from Lane for a two-point margin.
The Bruins were within just one point at 17-16 a few points later, but Willamette scored on the next two rallies to start an 8-2 run that closed out the set. The run included at least one kill from five different Bearcats, including two by Stiles.
WU and GFU played the next three sets without a single lead change. After the Bruins took a 7-2 advantage in the second set, Willamette battled back within 7-5 on a service ace by Lane, but never got closer. The Bearcats trailed by just three points at 13-10, but GFU went on a 9-4 run to take a 22-14 lead following a service ace by Laney Search.
In the third set, WU's 7-4 margin was reduced to a single point five times, including 11-10 on a kill from Aryah Marlow. A bit later, WU led 15-13 before the Bearcats put together a 4-0 run. Willamette won the set, 25-18. George Fox won by an identical score in the fourth set after creating a 12-4 lead. The Bearcats trailed 22-12, but went on a 6-2 run to reduce the margin to 24-18. Dupray of GFU pounded a kill during the next rally to end the set.
The Bearcats will host Whitworth University at Cone Field House on Friday, Sept. 12 as part of Homecoming/Family Weekend. Match time is set for 7 p.m. (PDT). Willamette will play a second home match during Homecoming/Family Weekend when they battle Whitman College on Saturday, Sept. 13 at 6 p.m.
Big Moment of the Match for Willamette
With Willamette holding a 5-3 lead in the fifth set
Jaiden Mason registered a kill for a three-point lead.
A few rallies later, Mason added another kill, giving
the Bearcats a 10-4 advantage on their way to a
15-9 victory in the set. WU won the match, 3-2.