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October 29, 2011

Lutes Sweep Aside Conference-Leading Whitworth

With an appreciative crowd of about 550 cheering loudly on Senior Day, Pacific Lutheran played arguably its best match of the season on Saturday, sweeping Whitworth 25-18, 25-19, 25-12, in Northwest Conference volleyball in Olson Auditorium.

Led by Kelsie Moore and Erin Bremond, two of five seniors honored prior to the start of the match, the Lutes improved to 19-5 overall and to 11-3 in the Northwest Conference. Whitworth came into the match two games up on PLU in the NWC standings but is now 17-6 overall and 12-2 in the conference.

Both teams play two more matches this season. PLU, which is ranked No. 22 in the American Volleyball Coaches Division III national poll, is on the road against Linfield on Friday and Pacific on Saturday. Whitworth, the defending champion and ranked No. 24 in the same AVCA poll, plays at Whitman on Wednesday before hosting Lewis & Clark on Friday.

The Lutes hit an incredible .333 as a team and limited the Pirates to a .102 percentage, due in part to 8.5 team blocks, including four block assists by conference leader Bethany Huston. PLU also had 48 total digs, including 15 by Blair Bjorkman and 11 by Amber Aguiar.

Amazingly, Pacific Lutheran trailed only twice during the entire match, both times early in the final two sets. That was how impressive their victory was over the conference's top team.

The two teams traded kills to start the first set before the Lutes broke away to a lead they would not give up. Leading 4-3, they scored eight of the next 10 points, including three kills by Bremond, to take a 12-5 advantage. Whitworth never got closer than five points the rest of the way. Bremond finished the set with four kills and both Moore and Huston added three apiece. The Lutes also had 3.5 blocks in the set, including three block assists by Huston.

PLU hit .265 in the set compared to .100 for Whitworth. Ka'ipo Rocha tried her best to keep her team in the first set with four kills in five swings and two block assists.

The Lutes gave Moore of the same to the Pirates in the second set - Kelsie Moore, that is. The senior outside hitter blazed away to eight kills and no errors in 17 swings, and both Bremond and Kelsey Pacolt added four kills as the Lutes hit .333 in the set. The Pirates hit a very respectable .225 in the second set and defending NWC Player of the Year Kaimi Rocha got untracked with five kills after struggling with no kills and three errors, two coming on blocks, in the first set.

Whitworth took its aforementioned lead early in the second set at 3-2 on a kill by Jalana White, but the Lutes roared back to score six straight points and grab the momentum. An attack error opened the door to the rally, but Moore and Bremond were both there to barge through with a pair of kills each.

The Pirates closed to within four points at 8-4 on Kaimi Rocha's kill, but that was as close as the score got as Moore led her team to a 2-0 advantage after two sets.

Whitworth opened the third set with a kill by Kristine Kardell, but the Lutes refused to let the visitors regain the momentum. They took the lead at 2-1 on senior Rose Mattson's service ace and continued to build their advantage, going on top by double figures for the first time at 16-6. It was fitting that the match ended with PLU's other two seniors, contributing to the final point. Missy DeWalt served and Hannah Harrison finished it with a kill down the line.

PLU was most impressive hitting the ball in the final set with 10 kills and no errors in 23 attempts for a .435 percentage. Whitworth hit -.026 in the final set.

Moore was nearly unstoppable in her final home match, cranking out 14 kills and no errors in 34 attempts for a .412 attack percentage. Bremond added 10 kills in 17 attempts for an impressive .471 attack rate. Samantha North spread the wealth and finished the match with 36 assists while also contributing a solo block and two block assists.

Kaimi Rocha rebounded from her tough start to finish with a team-high eight kills, while her sister Ka'ipo joined Kardell with seven kills apiece. Bree Riddle had 30 assists for the Pirates.

- PLU -