Bruins Beat Bearcats in Battle of NWC's Best Diggers

NEWBERG, Ore.– In a battle befitting two of the best-digging teams in the country, the George Fox University Bruins won a closely-contested Northwest Conference women’s volleyball match 3-1 over the Willamette University Bearcats Friday night here at the Wheeler Sports Center’s Miller Gym.

The Bruins spotted the Bearcats a game before bouncing back for a 30-32, 30-20, 30-27, 30-26 win, improving to 6-3 overall while securing their first NWC victory against two defeats. Willamette fought gamely but fell to 0-7 overall and 0-3 in the league.

Entering the match, George Fox and Willamette ranked 1-2 in the conference and 4-5 nationally in digs per game; the Bruins at 25.32 and the Bearcats at 23.86. Neither hurt their averages much as the Bruins collected 92 digs and the Bearcats 88.

Willamette led most of game one, though never by more than four points, before George Fox took a short-lived 29-28 lead on a Bearcat service error. Kills by Jessica McGraw and Jessica Durham put Willamette up 30-29, but a spike by the Bruins’ Whitney Kolb knotted it at 30-30. A McGraw put-away and a Bruin attack error gave the Bearcats the opening win.

A 12-2 run midway through the second game enabled the Bruins to break a 12-12 tie and take control, evening the match. After hitting only .098 in the first game, the Bruins bounced back to hit .297 in the second, while Willamette was just the reverse, hitting .204 in game one to .000 in game two.

In game three, the Bruins built up a nine-point lead at 24-15 on back-to-back kills by Amanda Allen, but the Bearcats rallied behind two service aces, three George Fox attack errors, and a pair of kills from McGraw and Durham to forge a 26-26 tie. Two straight Willamette errors and a block by Shayla Armstrong and Elizabeth Anderson put the Bruins back in control, and Anderson finished it off with a kill.

Down 19-14 in game four, the Bruins went on an 8-2 run, sparked by four kills by Linzi Stolsig, to take a 22-21 lead. The home team never trailed again, taking a five-point lead at 28-23, before a Bearcat attack error cemented the final point for George Fox.

Stolsig bounced back from a rough first game to lead the Bruins to victory. After suffering through a two-kill, five-error first game, she had 16 kills and no errors in the final three games, including 7 kills in 9 attempts in the finale. She finished with 18 kills and a .265 percentage. Allen had 15 kills and a .268 mark, while Anderson posted 12 kills and a .385 percentage. Kolb chipped in with 11 kills. Amy Knight, ranked 24th nationally in assists (11.65), passed out a career-high 57 assists. Defensively, Stolsig and Haley Stapleton had 21 digs each, Armstrong had 18, and Michol Roberts 11. Anderson was in on 5 of the Bruins’ 6 blocks.

Durham had 18 kills, McGraw 16, and Kelley Lindstrom 14 to pace the Bearcats, while Jessica Drumm had 51 assists. Veronica Schneider, the nation’s 4th-ranked digger (7.91) had a match-high 25 digs, with McGraw adding 21 and Drumm 14. McGraw had 5 block assists in the Bearcats’ total of 7 blocks.

George Fox travels to Tacoma to take on the University of Puget Sound and Willamette visits Lewis & Clark College in Portland Saturday, both matches at 7:00 p.m.