Bearcats Use Depth to Rally Over Whitman in Five Sets

Ahern Leads the Way with 12 Kills, Leenstra Adds 11

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

SALEM, ORE. -- The Willamette University volleyball team put nearly its entire lineup to good use on Friday, Sept. 23 against Whitman College, as the Bearcats overcame a slow start to defeat the Missionaries, 3-2, in Northwest Conference action. Willamette lost by a large margin in the first set, before battling its way to a 9-25, 25-20, 20-25, 25-23, 15-10 victory.

The Bearcats, who used 13 players during the match, improved to 5-7 overall, 2-1 in the NWC. Whitman, despite 18 kills from Jillian Davis, fell to 1-8 overall, 0-3 in the NWC.

Willamette was led by freshman Elisa Ahern (OPP, Lake Forest Park, WA/Shorecrest HS), who registered 12 kills and hit .379. She earned 10 of her kills in the three sets won by the Bearcats.

Other leaders on offense for Willamette were Madisyn Leenstra (Jr., MH/OH, Bellingham, WA/Sehome HS), with 11 kills, and Nicole Mertens (Jr., OH, Olympia, WA/Olympia HS), with nine kills. A total of nine Bearcats earned at least one kill during the match.

Kathy Lee Glenn (Jr., LIB, Murrieta, CA/Vista Murrieta HS) anchored the defense with 32 digs. She was joined in double figures by Taylor Gee (Fr., OH, San Diego, CA/Rancho Bernardo HS) with 15 digs and by Emily Compton (So., S, Portola, CA/Portola HS/Boise State Univ.), with 10 digs.

Compton also provided 39 assists, including nine on WU's 10 kills in the decisive fifth set.

Whitman used just two additional players beyond the starting six and libero Annie Sing. Even so, the Missionaries achieved 62 kills compared to 42 kills for Willamette. Davis' 18 kills topped the chart, while Courtney Brewer and Samantha Cahill each tacked on 12 kills.

The Missionaries, however, committed 12 serving errors on the night and hit just .069 in the final set. Willamette had 10 kills and a .276 hitting percentage in the fifth set.

Whitman zoomed out to a 9-4 lead to start the match and continued to surge ahead. The Missionaries earned 15 kills and a .483 team hitting percentage during the first set, while WU had just six kills.

Willamette Head Coach Tom Shoji tried different combinations on the court and the Bearcats gradually clawed back.

The second set was close until a late run by the Bearcats. At 18-18, WU tallied three consecutive points, including a kill by Shannon Waltz (So., MH, Honolulu, HI/La Pietra HS) and a service ace by Compton, to move in front. Whitman cut the margin to 21-19, but never got closer, as WU won, 25-20.

In the third set, WU held a 6-4 lead before Whitman went on a 12-6 run to claim a 16-12 advantage. The Bearcats cut the margin to a single point three times, including 19-18, but Whitman ended the set with a 6-2 surge. Davis earned five of her kills during the set.

WU held the lead for most of the fourth set. The Bearcats led 14-11 and held a four-point lead at 18-14, following a kill by Mertens.

The Missionaries also trailed by four points at 21-17, before rallying into a 23-23 tie after a combo block by Brewer and Jazmin Moledina. A kill by Leenstra sent WU into the lead and an attacking error by the Missionaries gave Willamette the set.

In the fifth set, Whitman scored the first two points. The Bearcats also trailed 4-3, before using three kills in a row -- by Leenstra, Gee and Carly Hargrave (So., MH, Happy Valley, OR/Clackamas HS) -- to start a 4-0 run.

A 4-2 outburst by Whitman cut the lead to 9-7. The Bearcats led 10-8 and then took charge with a 3-0 run that included a kill by Mertens and two attacking errors by Whitman. An attacking error by Willamette, plus a successful attack by Davis, cut the margin to 13-10.

Willamette tallied the final two points on a kill by Waltz and a kill by Ahern.

The Bearcats will return to action on Saturday (Sept. 24) against Whitworth University. Match time at Cone Field House is set for 5 p.m. (PDT).

Willamette University 3
Whitman College 2
Willamette won, 9-25, 25-20, 20-25, 25-23, 15-10
Freshman Elisa Ahern produced 12 kills and a .379 hitting percentage to lead Willamette.

Freshman Elisa Ahern produced 12 kills and a .379 hitting percentage to lead Willamette.