Willamette Reaches .500 in NWC with 3-2 Win over Pioneers

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

PORTLAND, ORE. -- Willamette University received 15 kills apiece from outside hitters Molly Blankenship (Jr., Priest River, ID/Lamanna HS/Spokane Falls CC) and Jessie McGraw (Sr., Gaston, OR/Yamhill-Carlton HS/Corban College), as the Bearcats overcame a slow start to defeat Lewis & Clark College, 3-2, in Northwest Conference action on Friday, Oct. 30. Willamette won the match, 11-25, 25-21, 25-20, 18-25, 15-11.

The Bearcats improved to 10-12 overall, while reaching the .500 mark in the NWC at 7-7. L&C dropped to 12-10 overall, 8-5 in the NWC.

McGraw also earned 15 digs for Willamette, while Blankenship added 12 and Kathy Lee Glenn (Fr., LIB, Murrieta, CA/Vista Murrieta HS) supplied 11. Setter Brigit Miller (Fr., Olympia, WA/Olympia HS) dished out 41 assists.

Lewis & Clark outhit Willamette for the match, but WU attacked the ball very well in the three sets won by the Bearcats. Overall, the Pioneers achieved a .277 attack percentage with 66 kills, while Willamette finished at .194 with 53 kills. WU claimed the victory by hitting .344 in set #2, .333 in set #3 and .333 in set #5.

Willamette middle hitter Julie Stutzman (Sr., Olympia, WA/Olympia HS) joined Blankenship and McGraw as a third strong attacker. She registered eight kills and just one hitting error on 12 attacks. She recorded a .583 hitting percentage.

Jessamy Holland led the Pioneers with 15 kills. Katherine Fiedler and Sarah Hall each provided L&C with 14 kills. Margaret Dowling topped all players with 23 digs.

The Pioneers built a 15-3 advantage in the first set on their way to a 25-11 win. Holland earned six of her kills during the set.

L&C surged out to another early lead in the second set, building margins of 5-1 and 8-2. The Bearcats countered with a 7-1 run that tied the set at 9-9. WU's run included two kills each for Jaci Abeloe (Fr., OH, Medford, OR/North Medford HS) and Blankenship.

A few points later, Willamette trailed 13-11. Again the 'Cats put together a 7-1 run to take an 18-14 lead. L&C pulled within a single point at 22-21 on a kill by Holland. WU won the next three rallies to end the set, as Blankenship recorded a kill, McGraw added a kill and Blankenship produced a service ace.

Willamette held a 14-9 advantage in set #3, before L&C responded with a 7-1 run of its own to take a 16-15 advantage. The Bearcats went on a 5-0 run to take control of the set at 20-16. WU achieved a total of 16 kills in the 25-20 victory.

L&C tied up the match at two games apiece with a 25-18 victory in set #4. Fiedler recorded five kills and Jennifer Dowdy added four kills during the set.

Willamette, which claimed its second consecutive five-set victory, trailed 3-1 in set #5, but scored back-to-back points for a 3-3 tie.

The decisive set also was tied four times over the next eight points, before WU surged ahead with three point in a row for a 10-7 lead. Annika Moffett (So., OPP, Portland, OR/Lincoln HS) completed the short run with an ace.

Later, he Bearcats led by four points, 13-9, but the Pioneers used a kill by Sarah Hall and a WU hitting error to cut the lead to 13-11. Willamette scored the next point on a kill by McGraw and won the match when Abeloe provided the final point by pounding out another kill.

Willamette is in fifth place in the NWC standings, one-and-a-half matches in front of Whitworth University and Linfield College, both 5-8. The Bearcats have won five of their last six matches.

L&C holds fourth place in the conference, but would have moved into a three-way tie for second with a win over the Bearcats

The next match for Willamette will be played at Cone Field House on Friday, Nov. 6 against Pacific Lutheran University. Match time is scheduled for 7 p.m. (PST). WU will also play at home on Saturday, Nov. 7, when the Bearcats will host George Fox University at 7 p.m.

Willamette University 3
Lewis & Clark College 2
11-25, 25-21, 25-20, 18-25, 15-11
Outside hitter Molly Blankenship recorded 15 kills and 12 digs, as WU defeated L&C in five sets.

Outside hitter Molly Blankenship recorded 15 kills and 12 digs, as WU defeated L&C in five sets.