Willamette Volleyball Team Set to Open Season

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

SALEM, ORE. -- Highly-respected volleyball coach Tom Shoji will lead the Willamette University Bearcats in his first matches as head coach this weekend when the 'Cats compete at the Bruin-Wildcat Invitational Tournament in Newberg, Ore. Shoji, who has already coached collegiate women's volleyball for 24 years, including six years each at New Mexico State University and Indiana University, was hired by Willamette in late February.

WU opens the season on Friday, Aug. 29 against Mills College (Calif.) at 12 p.m. (PDT) and will conclude the day against co-host George Fox University at 4 p.m. On Saturday, Aug. 30, the Bearcats will take on Menlo College (Calif.) at 9 a.m., before completing the tournament against Warner Pacific College at 1 p.m.

The Bearcats return home for a pair of matches at Cone Field House in Salem, Ore., next week. Willamette will host crosstown rival Corban College on Tuesday, Sept. 2 at 7 p.m. (PDT) and will take on Evergreen State College (Wash.) on Wednesday, Sept. 3, also at 7 p.m.

Shoji enters the season with seven players from the 2007 squad, including three returning starters. Kelley Lindstrom (Sr., OH, Banks, OR/Banks HS) led the team with 3.16 kills per game and achieved a .199 hitting percentage. Jessica Durham (Sr., OH, Medford, OR/North Medford HS) added 3.06 kills per game and contributed 3.31 digs per contest. Clare Chedester (Sr., LIB, Encinitas, CA/San Dieguito Academy) provided solid play at the libero position, where she achieved a team-high 4.63 digs per game.

Willamette also features five newcomers on the roster. The most experienced new player is Jessica McGraw (Sr., OH, Gaston, OR), who will be a junior this season. She played at Corban in 2006. Freshmen for the Bearcats are Kellie Menghini (Ds, Anchorage, AK/South Anchorage HS), Annika Moffett (OH, Portland, OR/Lincoln HS), Jaela Dinsmore (DS, Hines, OR/Burns HS) and Carli Sash (OH, Jacksonville, OR/South Medford HS)

Last year, Willamette was 4-22 for the second season in a row. The Bearcats hope to improve on the court this year and also look to end a 43-match losing streak in Northwest Conference action.

Kelly Lindstrom saw action in all 26 matches last season.