McMINNVILLE, Ore. - Willamette remained in contention for its first Northwest Conference championship since 1996 by beating Linfield in a narrow five-game decision Saturday night at Ted Wilson Gym.

The Bearcats handed the host Wildcats their seventh consecutive defeat, but had to battle to get the job done. The scores were 30-22, 24-30, 30-27, 24-30, 16-14.

Willamette (18-5, 12-2 NWC) pulled away from a 5-5 tie in Game 1, taking a commanding 17-11 lead on Lauren Thompson's kill. Angie Sammons had eight kills in the game and Thompson contributed five as the Bearcats won easily 30-22.

The second game was a mirror opposite of the first, with the Wildcats grabbing an early lead and holding it throughout. Linfield outhit Willamette .286 to .075 in the frame as Lindsay Harksen (Jr., Sublimity, Ore.) accounted for six kills and Lisa Brocard (Fr., Sweet Home, Ore.) pounded five to square the match at one game apiece.

The Bearcats built a three-point lead to begin Game 3, then went on a 10-3 run to move in front 20-10. Linfield then scored 10 of the next 13 points, closing the margin to four, 23-20.

The Wildcats would come no closer, as Willamette used an ace by Vernoica Schneider and a game-ending kill by Sammons to prevail 30-27.

Sammons totaled five kills for the game, while Brocard had six for the Wildcats.

Linfield opened up an 8-5 lead in the fourth game before the Bearcats tied it at 11. Willamette took a momentary lead, 13-11, before the Wildcats rallied to tie the game once more, 14-14. Linfield outscored the visitors 10-2 to take a 24-16 advantage, then cruised to a 30-24 win to force a deciding game.

Willamette grabbed a 9-7 lead following Harksen's attack error. Kills by Laura Grambo (Fr., Kelso, Wash.) and Molly Taylor (Fr., Keizer, Ore.) squared the game at 10.

A Thompson kill and a ball-handling error by Jennie Brennan (So., Medford, Ore.) put the Bearcats back in front, 13-11. A Sammons kill and a Michelle Wyatt (So., Halsey, Ore.) attack error ended the match in the Bearcats' favor, 16-14.

Sammons finished with a match-high 26 kills. Brocard had 25 kills in a losing effort.