Blankenship Earns 22 Kills in 3-1 Win over Whitman

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

SALEM, ORE. -- Junior outside hitter Molly Blankenship (Priest River, ID/Lamanna HS/Spokane Falls CC) achieved a match-high 22 kills to lead Willamette University to a 3-1 victory over Whitman College in Northwest Conference play on Saturday, Oct. 17. The Bearcats trailed after the first set, but won the next three sets to take the match, 23-25, 25-20, 25-19, 25-20.

Willamette improved to 7-11 on the season, including 4-6 in the NWC. Whitman's record moved to 4-12 overall, 1-9 in the NWC.

Blankenship was one of two Bearcats with double-digit kills. Jessie McGraw (Sr., OH/OPP, Gaston, OR/Yamhill-Carlton HS/Corban College) recorded 10 kills to go with 10 digs.

Brigit Miller (Fr., S, Olympia, WA/Olympia HS) provided Willamette with 40 assists. Kathy Lee Glenn (Fr., LIB, Murrieta, CA/Murrieta HS) led the Bearcats with 15 digs, while Miller added 13. Five Bearcats finished the match with 10 or more digs

Alex Graves contributed 19 kills and a match-high 20 digs for Whitman. Carrie Cecil achieved 11 kills and hit .310 for the Missionaries. Amanda Holberg accumulated 13 digs. Setter Katie Richards earned 40 assists and 10 digs.

WU produced 53 kills and 80 digs, while Whitman ended the night with 47 kills and 62 digs. The Bearcats hit .205 and the Missionaries achieved a hitting percentage of .191. Whitman also made 13 serving errors.

The first set featured several significant point swings. Whitman scored six consecutive points, including two kills by Graves, to take a 9-3 lead. The Bearcats countered with a 9-2 run, giving Willamette a 12-11 advantage. McGraw registered four kills during the run.

Willamette continued to surge forward, eventually taking a 20-12 lead on a kill by Jaci Abeloe (Fr., OH, Medford, OR/North Medford HS). The Missionaries responded by scoring 10 of the next 11 points for a 22-21 lead. The run included five kills by Whitman and four attacking errors by WU.

A pair of Whitman serving errors allowed the Bearcats to tie the score at 22-22 and 23-23. Graves concluded the set with back-to-back kills for the Missionaries.

The 'Cats fell behind 14-10 in the second set, before rallying for a 25-20 win. Blankenship led the way, as she recorded eight kills and a .667 hitting percentage (no errors, 12 attacks) during the set.

WU trailed 20-17 at one point, but ended the set with an 8-0 run. Danika Reed (Fr., OH, Arvada, CO/Arvada HS) served for Willamette on the final seven points. Blankenship pounded out kills on the final three rallies to seal the win. The Bearcats hit .297 in the second set.

In set #3, Willamette held Whitman to just eight kills and a .079 hitting percentage. The Missionaries won the first point, but the Bearcats moved out to a 10-4 lead and never trailed again during the set. Blankenship achieved six kills, while Reed added three.

The Bearcats were in front 8-2 after 10 points in the fourth set. Whitman went on a 7-1 run, aided by five attacking errors by Willamette, to tie the score at 9-9. Later, the teams were tied at 13-13, before Willamette ran off four consecutive points, including one kill by McGraw and two kills by Blankenship.

Whitman cut the lead to 17-15 with one kill each from Courtney Brewer and Graves. Blankenship countered with back-to-back kills of her own, as WU increased its lead to 19-15. The Missionaries never got closer than three points the rest of the way. After Whitman pulled within 23-20, the Bearcats received the final two points of the match on kills by McGraw.

The 'Cats hit .242 and earned 16 kills during the fourth set. Blankenship provided eight of the kills.

Willamette will play at the University of Puget Sound on Friday, Oct. 23. Game time in Tacoma, Wash., is slated for 7 p.m. (PDT).

BOX SCORE
Willamette University 3
Whitman College 1
23-25, 25-20, 25-19, 25-20
Molly Blankenship provided WU with 22 kills and earned a .436 hitting percentage in the win over Whitman.

Molly Blankenship provided WU with 22 kills and earned a .436 hitting percentage in the win over Whitman.