Pacific Lutheran, Ranked #18, Defeats Willamette in Three Sets

Kendall Fox (Jr., OH, Dupont, WA/Steilacoom HS)
Kendall Fox (Jr., OH, Dupont, WA/Steilacoom HS)

By Robert McKinney, Assistant Athletics Director, Communications

TACOMA, Wash. -- Pacific Lutheran University defeated Willamette University in three sets on Saturday, Oct. 20 at Olson Gymnasium, with the Lutes winning 25-10, 25-16, 25-16. PLU, ranked #18 in the NCAA Division III Coaches Top 25 Poll released  by the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA), improved to 17-3 on the season, 10-2 in the Northwest Conference. Willamette fell to 8-12 overall, 6-6 in the NWC.

The Lutes, who are second in the NWC standings behind Whitworth University (11-1), hit .340 against the Bearcats on Saturday. Mackenzie Harris led the way with 11 kills and only one attacking error on 15 total attacks. Chloe Epker and Isabella Zubrod each registered eight kills, while Lauren Wilson provided six kills. Pacific Lutheran earned 44 kills overall and had just nine attacking errors.

Caylie Shiramizu supplied the Lutes with a match-high 18 digs, and Epker added 11 digs. Zubrod accumulated 20 assists, while Emily Dulaney tacked on 15 assists.

Kendall Fox (Jr., OH, Dupont, WA/Steilacoom HS) pounded out eight kills for Willamette. Jennifer Lane (Jr., MH/OH, Salinas, CA/Notre Dame HS) contributed four kills. Jaiden Mason (So., S/OPP, Charlotte, NC/Charlotte Christian School) contributed 17 assists and 10 digs. Elena Vasquez (So., LIB/DS, Kingston, WA/North Kitsap HS) was credited with 12 digs.

"We just weren't ready to play tonight," Willamette Head Coach Tom Shoji said. "When that happens against a good team, you get bounced. We hung in there during some rallies, but just didn't have much success tonight."

Pacific Lutheran zoomed out to a 13-2 lead in the first set, making it difficult for Willamette to create momentum. The Lutes blocked three attacks during the early run, while Zubrod and McKenzie Pfeiffer each recorded two kills. PLU committed just two attacking errors in the set, while continuing to pull away for a 25-10 win.

Most of the second set was very competitive, as the teams played through five ties and two lead changes. PLU grabbed a 5-4 advantage, but a 4-1 run by the Bearcats gave Willamette an 8-6 lead. The Lutes countered with a 4-0 run to take a 10-8 lead on a kill by Harris. The margin reached 14-10, but Willamette pulled within a single point at 15-14 and 17-16. The Lutes pulled away by scoring the final eight points of the set for a 25-16 triumph.

In the third set, Pacific Lutheran held minimal leads of 7-4 and 11-7. The Lutes then scored four of the next five points to take a 15-8 lead on a kill by Harris. PLU extended the margin to 20-10 and won the set 25-16.

The Bearcats will be back in action on Wednesday, Oct. 24, when they will play Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon. Match time for the Bearcats and the Pioneers at the Pamplin Sports Center is set for 7 p.m (PDT).

Jennifer Lane (Jr., MH/OH, Salinas, CA/Notre Dame HS)

Big Moment of the Match for Willamette

Jennifer Lane produced two kills during a 4-0 run by the
Bearcats in the second set that erased a 5-4 deficit and
gave Willamette an 8-6 lead. The score was close for
nearly all of the set, and a kill by Lane pulled WU within
16-15. The Lutes also held a one-point lead at 17-16,
before PLU scored the next eight points to win the set.