Willamette Defeats Northwest Christian in Five Sets

Mertens Earns 14 Kills, Leenstra Adds 12

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

SALEM, ORE. -- Led by double-digit kill totals from Nicole Mertens (Jr., OH, Olympia, WA/Olympia HS) and Madisyn Leenstra (Jr., MH/OH, Bellingham, WA/Sehome HS) the Willamette University Bearcats defeated visiting Northwest Christian University, 3-2, at Cone Field House on Wednesday, Sept. 7. Mertens topped the Bearcats with 14 kills and Leenstra achieved 12.

Willamette, which trailed 1-0 before leading 2-1, held off the Beacons to improve to 2-3 on the season. Northwest Christian dropped to 6-3.

Janel Fetters, a sophomore right-side hitter for NCU, led all players with 22 kills. Emily O'Neal added 12 kills.

It wasn't enough for the Beacons, who couldn't overcome 39 attacking errors. Many of the errors were the result of Willamette's two block solos and 29 block assists (16.5 team total blocks).

WU struggled on offense in the first set with just four kills and a negative .167 hitting percentage. The Bearcats recovered quickly to take the second set, 25-14, on the strength of a .231 hitting percentage and negative .133 attacking by NCU.

The third set included 16 ties and six lead changes. Willamette owned a 19-17 advantage, but the Beacons won three consecutive rallies to pull in front, 20-19. The teams were tied four more times, before WU took a 24-23 lead on an attacking error by Northwest Christian. The Beacons evened the score with a kill by Maren Mansfield, before the Bearcats won the game with a kill by Leenstra and a hitting error by NCU.

Both teams held leads in the fourth set. WU surged out to a 7-4 edge, only to have the Beacons go on a 6-0 run to claim a three-point lead. NCU extended its lead to 20-12, before winning the set, 25-19.

Willamette played well in the decisive fifth set. The Bearcats hit .455 during the set with five kills, no errors and 11 attacks. Northwest Christian managed seven kills and had 23 attacks during the set, but committed six attacking errors.

The Bearcats led 2-1 and 3-2 early in the set. NCU held brief leads at 4-3 and 5-4, but WU tied the score on the next rally each time.

Willamette and the Beacons were tied for the final time during the match -- there were 48 ties overall -- when the fifth set reached 7-7. The Bearcats responded with a 6-1 run that gave them control at 13-8.

A ball-handling error by the Bearcats allowed NCU to score the next point, but a serving error by Dana Clark of the Beacons brought WU to match point. Mertens served an ace to give Willamette the victory.

Mertens and Leenstra earned more than have of Willamette's 44 kills. Mertens hit .324 and Leenstra hit .345. Shannon Waltz (So., MH, Honolulu, HI/La Pietra HS) chipped in eight kills for the Bearcats. Kathy Lee Glenn (Jr., LIB/DS, Murrieta, CA/Vista Murrieta HS) provided 39 digs to lead all players, while Emily Compton (So., S, Portola, CA/Portola HS/Boise State Univ.) contributed 33 assists.

Willamette's blocking efforts included nine total blocks by Carly Hargrave (So., MH, Happy Valley, OR/Clackamas HS) and seven total blocks each from Waltz and Elisa Ahern (Fr., OPP, Lake Forest Park, WA/Shorecrest HS). Ahern also achieved 10 digs.

NCU finished with 54 kills as setter Cori Wallace registered 45 assists. Clark led the Beacons with 24 digs.

The Bearcats will travel to Thousand Oaks, Calif., to play at the California Lutheran University Tournament on Friday, Sept. 9 and Saturday, Sept. 10. On Friday, the Bearcats will take on Occidental College (Calif.) at 12:03 p.m. (PDT) and will play California Lutheran at 3 p.m. On Saturday, WU will battle the University of La Verne (Calif.) at 3 p.m., before facing the University of Redlands at 5 p.m.

Willamette University 3
Northwest Christian University 2
Willamette won 21-25, 25-14, 26-24, 19-25, 15-9
Nicole Mertens led Willamette with 14 kills. She earned a .324 hitting percentage.

Nicole Mertens led Willamette with 14 kills. She earned a .324 hitting percentage.