Bearcats Chosen Ninth in NWC Volleyball Preseason Poll

By Robert McKinney, Athletics Communications Director, (503) 370-6110

SALEM, ORE. -- Willamette University has been picked to finish ninth in the Northwest Conference volleyball standings, according to the NWC Preseason Poll for the 2007 season. Defending co-champions Pacific Lutheran University and Linfield College ranked first and second, respectively. All nine NWC head coaches voted in this year’s poll.

Linfield was ranked first on four ballots and PLU took the top spot on three more. One first place vote went to the University of Puget Sound and another went to Whitman College. Pacific Lutheran topped the poll with 75 points, followed by Linfield with 73.

Puget Sound was third in the poll with 67 points. Whitman ranked fourth with 52 points, while Whitworth held fifth place with 48 points. George Fox University was sixth at 38 points, with Pacific University seventh at 27 points, Lewis & Clark College eighth at 21 points and Willamette ninth at 14 points.

The Bearcats hope to add to their victory total this season, after finishing 4-22 overall and 0-16 in the Northwest Conference in 2006. Although WU did not win an NWC match, the Bearcats took Pacific Lutheran to five games before losing 3-2 at Cone Field House on Oct. 21. Willamette also dropped 5-game matches to Lewis & Clark and Whitworth during conference play.

Key returning players for the Bearcats include sophomore outside hitter Julie Stutzman (Olympia, WA/Olympia HS), junior outside hitter Kelley Lindstrom (Banks, OR/Banks HS) and senior right-side hitter Jordyn Smith (Henderson, NV/Green Valley HS). Stutzman led the Bearcats with 245 kills in 2006, while averaging 2.88 kills per game. Lindstrom added 193 kills, as she averaged 2.76 kills per game. Smith provided 110 kills with 1.36 kills per game.

Stutzman also contributed 27 service aces (0.32 avg.) and 178 digs (2.09 avg.). Smith recorded 24 service aces (0.30 avg.).

The top returning setter is Brittany Ashby (Jr., Federal Way, WA/Decatur HS). Ashby played in 20 of 93 games as the team’s back-up setter a year ago. She averaged 6.95 assists per game and also produced 1.75 digs per contest.

Head Coach Tricia Wright enters her sixth season with the Bearcats. Her career record at Willamette is 53-70 (.431). Wright led WU to back-to-back winning seasons in 2003 (18-8) and 2004 (19-6).

The Bearcats open the 2007 season by hosting the Willamette Tournament. Seven teams will play a total of 11 games during the event, scheduled for Friday, Aug. 31 and Saturday, Sept. 1 at Cone Field House. On Aug. 31, Willamette will take on Warner Pacific College at 2 p.m. (PDT) and will play the University of California-Santa Cruz at 8 p.m. (PDT). On Sept. 1, the Bearcats will face Eastern Oregon University at 2 p.m. (PDT), before taking on George Fox at 6 p.m. (PDT).

2007 Northwest Conference Volleyball Preseason Poll

Junior outside hitter Kelley Lindstrom averaged 2.76 kills per game last season. She earned 19 kills against Pacific Lutheran on Oct. 21.

Junior outside hitter Kelley Lindstrom averaged 2.76 kills per game last season. She earned 19 kills against Pacific Lutheran on Oct. 21.