By Robert McKinney, Assistant Athletics Director, Communications
TACOMA, Wash. -- In a match that featured three players on each team with 17 or more kills, and both teams hitting above .300, Pacific Lutheran University rallied from a 2-0 deficit to defeat Willamette University, 3-2, in Northwest Conference volleyball action on Friday, Oct. 11 at Olson Gymnasium. After losing the first two sets, the Lutes won the next two sets by the minimum of two points each to force a fifth set. PLU won the match 19-25, 20-25, 26-24, 25-23, 15-9.
The Lutes advanced their record to 12-8 on the season, 5-3 in the NWC. Willamette slipped to 4-12 overall and to 3-4 in the NWC.
Willamette's top attackers were Jennifer Lane (Sr., MH, Salinas, CA/Notre Dame HS) with 21 kills, Dani Queja (Fy., OH, Ewa Bach, HI/Maryknoll School) with 19 kills and Natalie Klotz (So., OH/OPP, Bonner Springs, KS/Bonner Springs HS) with 17 kills. All three hit very well for the Bearcats, with Lane owning a .581 hitting percentage, Queja at .319 and Klotz at .371. Willamette hit an impressive .340 as a team.
Emma Porter (Fy., S, Honolulu, HI/Mid-Pacific Institute) was credited with a career-high 54 assists, topping her previous-best of 50 against George Fox University less than a week ago on Oct. 5. Shyla Sato (Fy., LIB/DS, Honolulu, HI/MId-Pacific Institute) registered 18 digs against PLU on Friday, while Porter tacked on 15 digs and Quja contributed 13 digs. Overall, five Bearcats attained double-digit digs, as Klotz had 12 and Brooke Lohuis (Fy., S, Dublin, CA/Dublin HS) achieved 10. Lane recorded five block assists.
For Pacific Lutheran, Danielle Skibiel accumulated 21 kills, while McKenzie Pfeiffer registered 20 kills and Baylee Johnson earned 17 kills. Pfeiffer hit .425 and Skibiel hit .305. The Lutes finished the evening with a .311 team hitting percentage. Emily Dulaney supplied 62 assists for PLU. Halle Hetzler produced 17 digs and Emma Peters tallied 13 digs.
"Well, we were close, but couldn't finish. We had some great play in the first two sets, but made some silly mistakes and gave up all the momentum. We don't realize how important it is to stay in every rally and do the little things well."
— Willamette Head Coach Tom Shoji
Willamette hit a blistering .567 in the first set with 19 kills, and then attacked at a nearly equally strong .545 clip in the second set with 18 kills. Queja led the Bearcats with six kills during the first set, while Lane and Klotz each supplied four kills with no attacking errors. In the second set, Klotz and Lane each provided five kills and once again had no attacking errors. Queja had only one hitting error in the first two sets.
Even with WU's solid hitting, the first set was close most of the way, with nine ties and three lead changes. The teams were tied at 14-14, before one kill each by Klotz, Queja and Lane in succession gave the Bearcats a 17-14 lead. PLU cut the margin to 17-16 two rallies later on a kill by Hailey Iha, but Willamette answered with a 3-0 run, as two kills from Queja surrounded a kill by Kyana Benjamin (Jr., MH, Lubbock, TX/Lubbock HS). The Bearcats won the set, 25-19.
In the seond set, Willamette trailed 1-0, but scored the next seven points for a 7-1 lead. Six of WU's points during the run were scored on kills and one point was earned on a combo block by Lane and Lauren Stiles (Sr., OH, Altadena, CA/Flintridge Preparatory School). Willamette eventually held a 15-8 lead following back-to-back kills from Klotz. Pacific Lutheran reduced the deficit to 23-19 on a kill by Ava Nelson, but Willamette took two of the next three points for a 25-20 win.
The Lutes hit .405 in the third set, while recording 18 kills. WU slipped to a .237 hitting percentage, but Lane earned seven kills and hit .556. Pacific Lutheran was led during the set by Pfeiffer's six kills, plus five kills each from Skibiel and Johnson.
PLU led the third set 18-14 on a kill by Dulaney. The Bearcats soon pulled within 19-18 on a kill from Lane, and also cut the lead to a single point five more times before tying the score at 24-24 on a kill registered by Klotz. A kill by Skibiel gave PLU a 25-24 edge, and a kill from Johnson ended the set with the Lutes in front, 26-24.
The Bearcats moved out to an 11-5 lead in the fourth set. Pacific Lutheran reduced the difference to a single point at 14-13 on a kill from Pfeiffer. The Lutes held a 17-15 lead after two combo blocks by Service and Pfeiffer, but WU clamed a 19-17 advantage six rallies later on a service ace by Lohuis. A bit later, the teams were tied at 20-20. After PLU scored the next two points, the Bearcats pulled as close as 23-22 and 24-23, before the Lutes completed the set with a kill by Johnson.
Willamette held a 3-1 margin early in the fifth set, and went on to grab a 7-5 lead when Porter achieved a service ace. The Lutes answered with a 6-1 run to move in front, 11-8. PLU committed a serving error during the next rally, as the Bearcats cut the lead to 11-9. Pacific Lutheran completed the match by winning four consecutive points.
The Bearcats will return home to take on Pacific University at Cone Field House on Saturday, Sept. 11. Match time is scheduled for 6 p.m. (PDT). It will be Domestic Violence Awareness Night.