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October 19, 2011

Lutes Topple Loggers in NWC Volleyball

TACOMA - If there was any question about whether or not Pacific Lutheran remained a player in the battle for the Northwest Conference volleyball championship, consider the Lutes' Wednesday victory over host Puget Sound a definitive answer.

YES!

Playing perhaps its best match of the season, Pacific Lutheran defeated the Loggers, 25-15, 20-25, 25-17, 25-13, to move into second place in the conference standings, two games behind Whitworth, at the same time dumping Puget Sound into third place.

PLU, ranked No. 23 in the American Volleyball Coaches Association Division III national poll, improved its season record to 16-4 and its conference mark to 8-3. Puget Sound, ranked No. 21 in the AVCA poll, is now 15-4 overall and 7-4 in the NWC.

The Lutes' convincing win on Wednesday, which reversed the results of two earlier losses to the Loggers, featured outstanding blocking and an impressive and diversified attack that kept the hosts off balance.

Senior outside hitter Kelsie Moore led the Lutes with 13 kills, but there were other key offensive contributors. Senior middle blocker Erin Bremond had 11 kills and a .296 percentage, sophomore middle Bethany Huston had 10 kills and only one error for a .450 percentage, and frosh right side Amy Wooten added seven kills while hitting .400.

Frosh setter Samantha North spread the ball around to the tune of 39 assists and a solid .219 team attack percentage.

Defensively, the Lutes had 10 team blocks, including five block assists from Division III blocks leader Huston, four block assists from Bremond and three block assists from North, Wooten and junior outside hitter Kelsey Pacolt. The back row defense was equally impressive, led by junior libero Blair Bjorkman with 25 digs and North with 15 digs. Against that defense, UPS hit just .085 for the match.

With the first set tied at 8-8, the Lutes ran off five straight points, including a pair of aces by North, to take a 13-8 lead. Later, holding a 15-12 advantage, the Lutes ran off four more in a row, highlighted by kills from Bremond and North.

After UPS pulled to within five points at 19-14, PLU scored six of the last seven points, with Moore contributing an ace and a set-ending kill as the Lutes won 25-15.

Puget Sound knotted the sets at 1-1 by taking a 25-20 win in the second set. There were six ties, the last at 16-16, when the Loggers scored two straight points to take a lead they would not relinquish.

In the crucial third set, UPS took an early 5-3 lead, but the Lutes roared back with five straight points, four on Amber Aguiar's serve. She contributed an ace and Bremond had a big kill during the run. The score was tied four times through 16-16 when a Puget Sound service error and a block by North and Bremond made it 18-16 for the Lutes. After Moore's kill put the Lutes on top by a 19-17 score, Haley Urdahl served out the set for the final score of 25-17. Moore and Pacolt registered kills and Urdahl contributed an ace before the final two points came on consecutive combined blocks by North and Huston.

Pacific Lutheran dominated in the final set, opening with four straight points on kills by Rose Mattson, Wooten, Huston, and Wooten again. Kills by Huston and Bremond put the Lutes up 9-2, and soon it was 12-3 on kills by Bremond, Moore and Bremond again.

Trailing by nine points, the Loggers never got closer than seven points the remainder of the set, and Pacolt closed out the set at 25-13, and the match, with a kill.

Pacific Lutheran returns to conference action at 7 p.m. Saturday when it hosts the George Fox Bruins.

- PLU -