Willamette Slips Past Rivals from Linfield, 3-2, in NWC Opener

Bearcats Rally from 9-7 Down to Win Fifth Set, 15-12

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

SALEM, ORE. -- Willamette University outlasted Linfield College in a five-set opener to the 2011 Northwest Conference schedule, as the Bearcats defeated the Wildcats, 3-2, on Wednesday, Sept. 14 at Cone Field House. Willamette won 20-25, 25-18, 25-16, 21-25, 15-12.

The Bearcats improved to 4-6 overall, 1-0 in the NWC. Linfield dropped to 4-5 on the season, 0-1 in the NWC. The other seven teams in the NWC have not yet opened conference play, which will continue with four matches on Friday, Sept. 16.

Linfield battled back from a 17-12 deficit in the fourth set to take a 25-21 win and tie the match at 2-2. In the fifth set, the Bearcats trailed 9-7 before using a 5-0 run to move into a 12-9 lead.

Willamette's run began with a serving error by Linfield's Audrey Frazier. The error took place immediately following an ace by Frazier that gave Linfield its two-point lead.

With Lizzy Balding (So., DS/LIB, Honolulu, HI/Punahou School) serving for WU, the Bearcats tallied two points on attacking errors by Linfield, then blocked an attack by the Wildcats for an 11-9 advantage. Carly Hargrave (So., MH, Happy Valley, OR/Clackamas HS) and Elisa Ahern (Fr., OPP, Lake Forest Park, WA/Shorecrest HS) combined on the block.

Balding followed with a service ace near the middle of Linfield's defensive alignment where the Wildcats were unable to control the ball. Balding's next serve was an error, cutting WU's margin to 12-10. Nicole Mertens (Jr., OH, Olympia, WA/Olympia HS) of Willamette and Kelsey Ludin of Linfield exchanged kills, leaving the Bearcats with a 13-11 edge.

Linfield cut the margin to 13-12 before an attacking error by the Wildcats brought WU to match point. Hargrave registered a kill on the next rally to give the Bearcats the win.

Hargrave led all players with 14 kills and seven block assists. She hit .357 for the Bearcats. Nicole Mertens (Jr., OH, Olympia, WA/Olympia HS) contributed 11 kills and 16 digs for WU, while Madisyn Leenstra (Jr., MH/OH, Bellingham, WA/Sehome HS) tacked on 10 kills and hit .381.

Kailana Ritte-Camara topped Linfield with 13 kills and earned five aces, 14 digs and four block assists. Victoria Thompson achieved 11 kills and a .364 hitting percentage for the Wildcats.

In the first set, Linfield held a 13-10 lead before using a 7-3 run to build a 20-13 margin. Willamette put together a rally, as the Bearcats tallied five consecutive points to pull within 20-18. WU also got within two points at 21-19 and 22-20, but couldn't catch the Wildcats, who won the set, 25-20.

Willamette fell behind 9-4 and 12-9 in the second set, but finished strong to even the match. The Bearcats took advantage of solid serving by Emily Compton (So., S, Portola, CA/Portola HS/Boise State Univ.) to win nine straight points for an 18-12 advantage. Compton registered three aces during the run. WU claimed the set, 25-18.

The third set was tied at 12-12, but the Bearcats gained the next three points on a serving error by Linfield, an ace by Kathy Lee Glenn (Jr., LIB/DS, Murrieta, CA/Vista Murrieta HS) and a kill by Mertens. The Bearcats later held an 18-16 lead, then ran away with seven unanswered points -- the last six with Compton serving.

WU surged out to an 8-4 lead in the fourth set. After the Bearcats developed a 17-12 margin, Linfield achieved an 8-0 run to move in front. The final seven points were gained with Courtney Wanamaker serving for the Wildcats. The run featured five kills, including three by Ritte-Camara.

The Bearcats were within 22-21 six rallies later after a kill by Leenstra. Linfield won the next three points, including an ace by Frazier, to win the set at 25-21.

Compton finished with 39 assists, five aces and nine digs for WU. Glenn tacked on 21 digs and Balding added 18. Frazier earned 31 assists and 11 digs for Linfield, while Samantha Lau totaled a match-high 24 digs.

Willamette will play at Pacific Lutheran University on Friday. Game time in Tacoma, Wash., is set for 7 p.m. (PDT).

BOX SCORE
Willamette University 3
Linfield College 2
WU won 20-25, 25-18, 25-16, 21-25, 15-12
Carly Hargrave led all players with 14 kills and seven block assists.

Carly Hargrave led all players with 14 kills and seven block assists.

Kathy Lee Glenn provided Willamette with 21 digs.

Kathy Lee Glenn provided Willamette with 21 digs.