Bearcats Roll Past Northwest Christian in Season-Opener, 25-20, 25-16, 25-19

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

SALEM, ORE. -- Junior outside hitter Molly Blankenship (Priest River, ID/Lamanna HS/Spokane CC) and senior outside hitter Jessie McGraw (Gaston, OR/Yamhill-Carlton HS/Corban College) led the Willamette University volleyball team to a 3-0 victory over Northwest Christian University in the Bearcats' season-opener, Tuesday, Sept. 1, at Cone Field House. Willamette moved to 1-0, while NCU fell to 2-3 overall.

Willamette won the match 25-20, 25-16, 25-19 and achieved a .363 team hitting percentage. Meanwhile, the Bearcats limited Northwest Christian to a .122 hitting percentage.

Blankenship, in her first match since transferring from Spokane CC, registered a match-high 15 kills and hit .500. McGraw tacked on 13 kills, a .478 attack percentage and 14 digs.

Brigit Miller (Fr., S, Olympia, WA/Olympia HS) earned 27 assists for the Bearcats as the starting setter. Chelsie Mow (Fr., S/DS, Honolulu, HI/Hawaii Baptist Academy) recorded 14 assists for WU in Set #3.

Northwest Christian was led by Emily Miller with 120 kills and by Cassie Bishop with nine kills. Libero Mercedes LeClarie topped the Beacons with sevendigs.

Willamette won the battle at the net, earning 5.5 team total blocks, while holding NCU without a block during the match. The Bearcats also pounded out 45 kills compared to 31 kills for the Beacons.

WU fell behind 4-1 at the start of the match, but tied the set at 5-5. The 'Cats eventually moved into the lead at 14-13, on an attacking error by Northwest Christian.

The Bearcats held a slim 17-16 advantage before closing the set with an 8-4 run. NCU was within two points at 22-20, but a kill by Blankenship, a hitting error by the Beacons and a kill by McGraw ended the set.

Northwest Christian held leads of 2-1 and 5-3 early in the second set. WU scored the next to points to tie the score on its way to an 11-8 lead.

Later in the second set, the Bearcats went on a 5-1 run to claim a 17-11 margin. Northwest Christian won the next rally to cut the deficit to five points, but the Beacons never pulled closer, as WU went up 2-0 in the match with a 25-16 win.

NCU tallied the first point of the third set, only to watch Willamette string together nine unanswered points. Madisyn Leenstra (Fr., MH, Bellingham, WA/Sehome HS) served for eight of the points, including two service aces.

The Beacons battled to within three points at 14-11 and 20-17. WU registered the following point on a kill by Kathy Lee Glenn (Fr., LIB, Murrieta, CA/Vista Murrieta HS) and increased the lead to 22-17 with a kill from Danica Reed (Fr., OH, Arvada, CO/Arvada HS). The Bearcats won the set, 25-19.

Willamette will compete at the Boxer Kickoff Tournament at Pacific University in Forest Grove, Ore., on Saturday, Sept. 5 and Sunday, Sept. 6. WU will take on Linfield College on Saturday at 11:15 a.m. (PDT) and will face Schreiner University (Texas) at 6 p.m. the same day. On Sunday, the 'Cats will play Central College (Iowa) at 9 a.m. and will face Wartburg College (Iowa) at 3:45 p.m.

BOX SCORE
Willamette University 3
Northwest Christian University 0
25-20, 25-16, 25-19
Jessie McGraw registered 13 kills in Willamette's victory over the Beacons.

Jessie McGraw registered 13 kills in Willamette's victory over the Beacons.