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September 21, 2011

Lutes Run Into Buzz Saw Called the Loggers

Give credit where credit is due.

University of Puget Sound athletic teams might be known by the moniker Loggers, but on Wednesday night in Olson Auditorium the UPS volleyball squad was a buzz saw, beating Pacific Lutheran 3-0 in Northwest Conference action.

The scores were 25-18, 25-22 and 25-16.

The Loggers came into the match with a 10-0 season record, including a 2-0 mark in the conference, and a No. 16 ranking in the American Volleyball Coaches Association Division III national poll. They rolled out of Olson with another win, the second in as many matches against the Lutes this season. Pacific Lutheran, ranked No. 19 in the same AVCA poll, is now 9-2 this season - both losses coming to Puget Sound - and 2-1 in the NWC.

PLU got off to a quick start in the first set, grabbing a 7-3 lead on a service ace by Amber Aguiar. But the Loggers started blocking effectively at the net, shutting down the Lutes offense and getting things going on their offensive end. They took their first lead a 12-11 on a service ace by Juliette Witous, and they were not headed after that. By the end of the first set the Loggers already had five blocks, including a solo block and two block assists by setter Erika Greene.

The host Lutes again started well in the second set, building an early 5-1 lead, but Puget Sound took the initiative with excellent defense and battled back to tie it at 10-10. The score remained close, though the Lutes managed to take a 21-19 lead on a kill by Chelsea Nelson. Puget Sound rallied to tie it at 22-22, and then put the set away with three straight points, the final one coming on a block at the net.

After two sets, the Loggers already had an amazing 12 team blocks, including nine block assists by Nicolette Reynaud and a solo block and four block assists by Greene.

Once the Loggers took a 5-4 lead in the third set they never trailed again, and they closed the set and match with five kills.

The stats told the story as Puget Sound hit .215 as a team, led by Reynaud with seven kills and a .455 percentage. Stephanie O'Connor added eight kills and a .350 percentage, while Brynn Blickenstaff contributed seven kills and a .353 percentage.

The Lutes, on the other hand, hit .057 as a team, with much of that due to Puget Sound's 14 team blocks, that number coming on one solo block and 26 block assists. In addition, Witous led the Puget Sound back row defense that contributed 48 digs. Service aces also favored the Loggers, 9-6.

Senior outside hitter Kelsie Moore cranked out a match-high 11 kills for the Lutes, who also got 24 assists from Samantha North. For the second straight match against the Loggers, junior libero Blair Bjorkman showed that she is one of the best in the region, covering the entire floor on the way to 22 digs and leading her team to a total of 50 in the match. While the Loggers had 14 blocks, the Lutes managed just two.

The match was played in front of about 600 fans, the majority PLU students lending loud vocal support while wearing black shirts on "black out" night.

Pacific Lutheran returns to Northwest Conference action at 7 p.m. Saturday when it travels to Newberg, Ore., to take on the George Fox Bruins.

- PLU -