Bearcats display improvement under first-year coach Wright

The Willamette volleyball team made significant strides towards competing regularly with the top teams in the Northwest Conference this season under the direction of first-year coach Tricia Wright.

The Bearcats won four more matches than in 2001, finishing 11-15 overall, and improved one spot in the NWC standings, placing sixth at 7-9.

Willamette played some of the top schools in the West Region tough. The Bearcats defeated Puget Sound, which finished the regular season ranked No. 13 in the nation, in Tacoma, Wash. WU blanked Colorado College (3-0), which eventually qualified for the NCAA Division III national tournament. The Bearcats also pushed top-ranked and eventual West Region champion Cal State-Hayward to four games (3-1) early in the campaign.

The Bearcats were led in 2002 by junior middle hitter Jenni Linden, who was named to the NWC’s second-team all-star unit. Sophomore outside hitter Kristin Halleck (204 kills, 251 digs) was named to the honorable mention list.

Linden led the Bearcats in all blocking categories and finished fifth in the NWC in total blocks per game (1.04). She hit .235 on the year with 269 kills and 97 total blocks.

Freshman Angie Sammons led Willamette in kills (270) and service aces (28).

Senior setter Diana Chamberlain topped the team in assists (654) and wound up sixth in the conference in assists per game (8.28).

Sophomore setter Jodi Zaffino, who split time with Chamberlain, finished with 419 assists and an average of 7.76 per game.

Defensive specialist Jami Tautfest, a senior, topped Willamette in digs with 305. She ranked ninth in the NWC in digs per game at 3.77.

The Bearcats will lose five players to graduation: Tautfest, Chamberlain, Erin Cox, JoLee Sturgell and Crystal DeMello. DeMello was one of the Bearcats’ best all-around players this season. She finished the year with 224 kills, 88 digs, 46 total blocks and 20 service aces.

Whitworth (24-3) 15 1
Puget Sound (22-8) 12 4
George Fox (20-6) 11 5
Pacific Lutheran (16-8) 10 6
Linfield (14-8) 8 8
WILLAMETTE (11-15) 7 9
Whitman (11-13) 6 10
Pacific (2-22) 2 14
Lewis & Clark (4-22) 1 15


30-31 L&C/Cascade Invitational Portland All day
vs. Montana Tech L, 3-1
vs. Great Falls W, 3-1
At Cascade W, 3-0
vs. Northwest College L, 3-2

13-14 Pomona-Pitzer Invitational Pomona, Calif.
vs. Cal Lutheran L, 3-0
At Pomona-Pitzer W, 3-1
vs. Cal State-Hayward L, 3-1
vs. Claremont-M-S L, 3-1
20 Whitworth* Salem L, 3-2
21 Whitman* (No. 10 on this date) Salem W, 3-1
25 George Fox* Salem L, 3-0
28 Lewis & Clark* Portland W, 3-0

4 Linfield* Salem L, 3-0
5 Pacific* Salem W, 3-0
11 Pacific Lutheran* Tacoma, Wash. L, 3-1
12 Puget Sound* (No. 12 on this date) Tacoma, Wash. W, 3-2
18 Whitworth* Spokane, Wash. L, 3-0
19 Whitman* Walla Walla, Wash. W, 3-1
23 Lewis & Clark* Salem W, 3-0
26 CSU-Hayward Forest Grove L, 3-0
26 Colorado College Forest Grove W, 3-0
30 George Fox* Newberg L, 3-0

1 Linfield* McMinnville L, 3-0
2 Pacific* Forest Grove W, 3-1
8 Pacific Lutheran* Salem L, 3-1
9 Puget Sound* Salem L, 3-1
* Northwest Conference game