Bearcats Win in Straight Sets against Pirates

By Robert McKinney, Athletics Communications Director, (503) 370-6110 and
Sara Brooks, Assistant Athletics Communications Director, (503) 370-6219

SALEM, ORE. -- Willamette University won in straight sets over visiting Whitworth University on Friday, Oct. 16. The Bearcats defeated the Pirates 25-20, 25-17, 27-25. The Bearcats moved to 6-11 overall and to 3-6 in the Northwest Conference. The visiting Pirates fell to 7-13 overall, 3-6 in the NWC.

Molly Blankenship (Jr., OH, Priest River, ID/Lamanna HS/Spokane Falls CC) led the way with 12 kills and hit .500 for the match. Jaci Abeloe (OH, Medford, OR/North Medford HS) added six kills of her own. Freshman setter Brigit Miller (Olympia, WA/Olympia HS) contributed a match-high 40 assists.

The Bearcats hit .362 for the match compared to Whitworth's .182 hitting percentage. Seven different Bearcats posted at least three kills. Willamette achieved 44 kills, while the Pirates finished with 31.

Whitworth was led by Tracy Schwada with eight kills and a .500 hitting percentage. Kaimi Rocha added seven kills, while Ariana Obert had eight digs.

In the first set, Willamette took a quick 3-0 lead, but the Pirates went on a 12-6 run. Whitworth claimed a 12-9 lead on a kill by Morgan Veleke to complete the run. The Bearcats won the next four points, including a kill and a service ace by Blankenship, plus a kill by Annika Moffett (So., OPP, Portland, OR/Lincoln HS).

After the Pirates tied the set at 13-13 and 14-14, Willamette moved in front for good. A kill by Josephine Johnston (Fr., MH, Florence, MT/Florence-Carlton HS), followed by a kill from Abeloe and another kill from Johnston, gave the 'Cats a 17-14 advantage. Whitworth pulled within 17-16 before Willamette ended the set with an 8-4 run.

With the Bearcats leading 9-5 in the second set, Johnston left the court with a leg injury. She was replaced by Madisyn Leenstra (Fr., MH, Bellingham, WA/Sehome HS). Leenstra played well for the Bearcats, as she finished the match with four kills and no hitting errors on seven attacks (.571 hitting percentage).

Leenstra recorded three of her kills during the second set, as she helped the Bearcats take a 2-0 lead in the match. Her first two kills in the set gave Willamette leads of 13-7 and 23-14. Her third kill provided the final point in the set, as the 'Cats prevailed 25-17.

Whitworth surged out to a 6-1 lead in the third set and later owned a 12-6 advantage. The Bearcats rallied with a 7-0 run for a 13-12 lead. Moffett was the server for six of the points, including two service aces. Blankenship provided three kills during the run.

The Pirates registered the next point to tie the set, and their were six more ties before the match ended. Willamette held a 24-21 lead following an kill by Blankenship, but Whitworth won the next three rallies to keep the match going. Schwada provided two of the points with kills.

Jessie McGraw (Sr., OH/OPP, Gaston, OR/Yamhill-Carlton HS/Corban College) registered a kill for Willamette to give the Bearcats a 25-24 edge. Schwada answered with a kill for Whitworth to achieve the final tie of the set at 25-25. Willamette won the next two points on a bad set and an attacking error by the Pirates.

Willamette remains at home to take on Whitman College on Saturday, Oct. 17. Match time at Cone Field House is set for 7 p.m. (PDT).

Willamette University 3
Whitworth University 0
25-20, 25-17, 27-25
Molly Blankenship led the Bearcats with 12 kills against Whitworth. She achieved a .500 hitting percentage.

Molly Blankenship led the Bearcats with 12 kills against Whitworth. She achieved a .500 hitting percentage.

Madisyn Leenstra achieved four kills and a .571 hitting percentage.

Madisyn Leenstra achieved four kills and a .571 hitting percentage.