Bearcats Drop First Set, Win Next Three, to Defeat Warner Pacific

Willamette Prevails, 22-25, 25-23, 25-16, 25-23

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

PORTLAND, ORE. -- Willamette University lost the first set, but rallied to win each of the next three sets, as the Bearcats defeated Warner Pacific College on Wednesday, Sept. 8 at the C.C. Perry Gym. The Bearcats outlasted the Knights, 22-25, 25-23, 25-16, 25-23.

Willamette was led by Molly Blankenship (Sr., OH, Spokane, WA/Lamanna HS/Spokane Falls CC), who earned 13 kills, seven digs and two service aces. Madisyn Leenstra (So., MH/OH, Bellingham, WA/Sehome HS) added 11 kills, a .360 hitting percentage, six digs and two service aces. The Bearcats improved to 3-2 on the season.

Nicole Mertens (So., OH, Olympia, WA/Olympia HS) provided WU with eight kills. Kellie Menghini (Jr., LIB, Anchorage, AK/South Anchorage HS) contributed 10 digs, while Annika Moffett (Jr., OPP, Portland, OR/Lincoln HS) supplied five kills and nine digs.

Emily Compton (Fr., S, Portola, CA/Boise State Univ.) achieved 26 assists for Willamette. Brigit Miller (So., S, Olympia, WA/Olympia HS) tacked on 16 assists.

Samantha Kolakowski topped Warner Pacific with nine kills and also earned 10 digs and three service aces. Whitney Valenta recorded a match-high 18 digs for the Knights, while Denali Preston earned 10 digs. Melita Elliot provided 31 assists and added nine digs. WPC dropped to 2-6 overall.

Three of the four sets were closely contested. In the first set, Willamette gained an 11-7 lead and remained in front until the Knights forced a 17-17 tie. Both teams held leads during the next several rallies, with WU gaining a 22-20 following a bad set by Warner Pacific. The Knights tallied the next five points to win the set.

Willamette fell behind 3-0 and 6-1 at the start of the second set, but eventually tied the score at 12-12 on a kill by Blankenship. The Knights won the next rally and later held a 17-13 lead, only to have the Bearcats register five unanswered points. WPC countered with three straight points for a 20-18 edge, before WU went on a 5-1 run for a 23-21 advantage.

The Knights pulled into a 23-23 tie on two consecutive attacking errors by Willamette. The Bearcats responded with two kills in a row by Mertens, as WU evened the match at one game apiece.

A 7-3 surge at the start of the third set put the Bearcats in a good position. Willamette extended the lead to 17-10. WPC cut the margin to four points at 18-14, but WU ended the set with a 7-2 run.

The fourth set featured nine ties and three lead changes. Willamette led 13-12 on a kill by Kirsten Brehmer (Fr., MH/OPP, Evergreen, CO/Evergreen HS) never trailed again. Later, the Bearcats held a 20-17 advantage after back-to-back kills by Blankenship, but Warner Pacific rallied to tie the game at 20-20 and 21-21.

Willamette moved in front on another kill by Blankenship and eventually led 24-22. A kill by Kolakowski cut the margin to a single point. On the next rally, Kolakowski committed a serving error, allowing Willamette to claim match point.

The Bearcats hit .149 for the match, while limiting the Knights to a .119 hitting percentage. Both teams earned 66 digs. Warner Pacific had 10 service aces and 7.0 team total blocks, while Willamette earned nine aces and 5.0 total blocks.

Up next for Willamette is the California Lutheran Tournament on Friday, Sept. 10 and Saturday, Sept. 11. The Bearcats will open the event against Chapman University on Friday at 12:30 p.m. (PDT). Wu also is scheduled to play Whittier College, Occidental College and Claremont-Mudd-Scripps during the tournament.

BOX SCORE
Willamette University 3
Warner Pacific College 1
22-25, 25-23, 25-16, 25-23
Madisyn Leenstra recorded 11 kills and hit .360 for Willamette against Warner Pacific.

Madisyn Leenstra recorded 11 kills and hit .360 for Willamette against Warner Pacific.