Bearcats take Pacific Lutheran to the Limit before 15th-Ranked Lutes Win, 3-2

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

SALEM, ORE. -- Willamette University battled 15th-ranked Pacific Lutheran University throughout a five-set match at Cone Field House on Friday, Nov. 6. The Bearcats held a 2-1 lead after two sets, but the Lutes rallied to remain undefeated in Northwest Conference play with a 19-25, 25-14, 20-25, 25-23, 15-9 victory.

Pacific Lutheran University 3
Willamette University 2
19-25, 25-14, 20-25, 25-23, 15-9

PLU upped its record to 19-6 overall, 15-0 in the NWC. Willamette's three-match winning streak came to an end, as the Bearcats moved to 10-13 overall, 7-8 in the NWC.

Senior outside hitter Jessie McGraw (Gaston, OR/Yamhill-Carlton HS/Corban College) led Willamette with 20 kills, a .340 hitting percentage and 21 digs. Brigit Miller (Fr., Se, Olympia, WA/Olympia HS) added 47 assists and 16 digs.

Kelcy Joynt topped Pacific Lutheran with a match-high 28 kills to go with 19 digs and four block assists. She was the Lutes' most consistent attacker during Friday's match. Her efforts helped PLU, which played without two-time NWC Player of the Year Beth Hanna, who suffered a season-ending knee injury against Whitworth University last weekend.

The Bearcats won the first and third sets, and executed well in both of those stanza. WU hit .387 in the opening set and earned a .361 attack percentage in the third set.

Willamette held a slim 9-8 lead after 17 points in the first set, but won four consecutive rallies for a 13-8 advantage. The 'Cats also won seven of the next 11 points to extend the margin to 20-12.

After WU took a 23-14 lead, PLU put together a 4-0 run. The Bearcats responded by taking two of the next three points on kills by Madisyn Leenstra (Fr., OH, Bellingham, WA/Sehome HS) and McGraw to win the set, 25-19.

PLU surged out to a 6-0 lead in the second set and also led 10-3. Later, WU trailed 19-9 after Joynt registered back-to-back kills. The Lutes went on to claim a 25-14 victory.

McGraw was solid in set #3, as she recorded six kills and no errors, while earning a .500 hitting percentage. Her kill with the score tied 8-8 moved Willamette into the lead and the Bearcats stayed in front the rest of the way. Miller achieved 12 assists and the WU attack earned 14 kills and just one attacking error during the set.

The Bearcats held a 12-10 advantage, then went on a 8-4 run to claim a 20-14 edge. Five Bearcats provided at least one kill during the run. WU won the set 25-20, with a kill by McGraw providing the final point.

A good portion of the fourth set as close and there were eight ties between 5-5 and 15-15. The Lutes pulled in front on a kill from Kelsie Moore to start a 3-0 run. PLU eventually increased the lead to five points at 21-16.

WU rallied with a 7-3 run of its own, and the Bearcats pulled within 24-23 on a kill by McGraw. The 'Cats were unable to tie the score, however, as Joynt recorded a kill for the last point of the set.

The Lutes were in front 3-1 and 4-2 early in the fifth set. Willamette tied the score at 4-4 on a PLU attacking error, before gaining the lead on a kill be Leenstra. Three rallies later, the score was tied again at 6-6.

Pacific Lutheran went on a 5-1 run, including two serving errors by the Bearcats, to take an 11-7 advantage. Julie Stutzman (Sr., MH, Olympia, WA/Olympia HS) stopped the run with a kill for WU, but two kills by Joynt gave the Lutes a 13-8 lead.

An attacking error by PLU resulted in Willamette winning the next point. The Lutes countered with a kill from Joynt, then Moore added a kill for the final point of the match. PLU won the set, 15-9.

Willamette will close out the season on Saturday, Nov. 7 with a home match against George Fox University. Match time is set for 7 p.m. (PST) at Cone Field House. The Bearcats will honors McGraw and Stutzman, the team's two seniors, prior to the match.

For More Information:
Robert McKinney, Athletics Communications Director, (503) 370-6110

Jessie McGraw pounded out 20 kills and recorded a .340 hitting percentage against the Lutes.

Jessie McGraw pounded out 20 kills and recorded a .340 hitting percentage against the Lutes.