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November 1, 2011

Volleyball To Wrap Up NWC Play This Weekend

THIS WEEK: The Pacific Lutheran University volleyball team will travel to Oregon this weekend for two matches as the team wraps up its Northwest Conference schedule. Sitting in second place in the conference standings, Pacific Lutheran has gone 11-3 in NWC action this season. The Lutes 19-5 overall record in 2011 has them in position to secure their fifth 20-win season in the past six years. First up for PLU this weekend is Linfield College. With a 5-9 mark in conference play, the Wildcats are locked in a tie for sixth place in the NWC standings. Friday night's match in McMinnville, Ore. is scheduled for 7 p.m. A day later, the Lutes head to Forest Grove, Ore. to square off with the Pacific University Boxers. Pacific holds the fifth spot in the NWC standings by way of a 6-8 conference record. Saturday night's match is set to begin at 7 p.m.  

THE SCENARIO: As it stands now, the Whitworth University Pirates control their own path to a second consecutive NWC title. With a 12-2 mark in NWC play, Whitworth is one game in front of Pacific Lutheran in the conference standings. If the Bucs can win both of their matches this week, the NWC crown and a spot in the NCAA postseason tournament will be theirs. However, if Whitworth was to drop just one of its two matches, and the Lutes win both of their matches this weekend, the teams would be named co-champions. In the event of a co-champion scenario, the Lutes would receive the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA postseason tournament due to tiebreaking rules. 

LUTES REMAIN AT NO. 22: Despite two wins last week including a 3-0 thrashing of No. 24 Whitworth, the Lutes failed to move up the rankings in this week's American Volleyball Coaches Association Top 25 poll. This week, PLU remain's at No. 22 in the nation. Whitworth improved its ranking to No. 23, while the University of Puget Sound dropped to No. 25. To view the complete poll, click here. 

A LOOK AT LINFIELD: With a 10-13 overall record in 2011, Linfield has not been able to put back to back wins together since late September. Kailana Ritte-Camara leads the Wildcat attack with 2.86 kills per set this season, which ranks seventh among NWC foes. Back in early October, the Lutes and Wildcats met in Parkland and PLU rolled to a convincing 3-0 victory. Kelsie Moore led all players with 12 kills behind a .500 attack percentage. The win took PLU's winning streak over Linfield to nine matches.   

SCOUTING PACIFIC: Perhaps the surprise of the NWC this season is the Pacific Boxers. Projected to finish last in the NWC coaches' preseason poll, the Boxers have fought to a 12-11 overall record in 2011. Despite being on a five-match losing streak, the Boxers have a chance to finish the season with a winning record. Senior Kelsy Takashima and junior Alexa Block team up to provide a strong attacking presence. Block is averaging 3.37 kills per set which is good for third in the NWC while Takashima is averaging 3.20 kills per set, ranking her fourth in the conference. The first meeting between the two teams went to the Lutes by a score of 3-1. Lute senior Erin Bremond led PLU with 16 kills. Pacific's Block and Takashima combined for 26 kills in the loss. With the win, Pacific Lutheran improved its win streak to 16 matches over the Boxers.

PLU 3, WHITWORTH 0: 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 3, WHITMAN 1: Kelsie Moore had 15 kills and Erin Bremond added 13 as Pacific Lutheran strengthened its grip on second place in the Northwest Conference volleyball standings Friday night with a 25-27, 25-20, 25-9, 25-12 victory over the visiting Whitman Missionaries at Olson Auditorium. With the win, the Lutes improve to 18-5 overall and 10-3 in the conference. They will be either one or two games behind conference-leading Whitworth, depending on how its Friday night match against Puget Sound turned out. Either way, PLU hosts Whitworth at 5 p.m. Saturday in a battle of the NWC's top two teams. PLU, ranked No. 22 in the American Volleyball Coaches Association Division III national poll, seemed well on the way to a convincing sweep of Whitman, leading the first set 17-7 before the Missionaries, 3-16 overall and 2-11 in the NWC, stepped up and stole the set. A kill by Megan Bafus got it started, and the Missionaries rolled off six straight points on Rachel Shober's serve to pull within three at 17-14. Courtney Brewer had a pair of kills, Jazmin Moledina added another, and Shober recorded an ace during the run. PLU still led 22-17, only to see Whitman score six of the next seven points to tie it at 23-23, with Bafus providing a pair of kills during the run. A Whitman service error put the Lutes within a point of the win, but the Missionaries refused to fold. The score was tied at 25-25 when Moledina recorded a service ace and Jillian Davis a kill to finish Whitman's big comeback. In the second set, the teams were tied at 9-9 when the Lutes finally gained a lead they would not lose, though they didn't lead by as many as four points until Bremond's kill made it 23-19. They finally closed out the set at 25-20 when setter Samantha North dumped the ball into the open court. The final two sets were much like the first set, only this time PLU didn't allow Whitman to take away the momentum. The Lutes raced to a 9-1 lead in the third set, took their first double-digit lead at 16-6, and cruised in from there. Moore had five of her kills in that set. In the fourth set, PLU grabbed a 14-4 lead on Moore's service ace, and the Missionaries never got closer than eight points the rest of the way. Kelsey Pacolt added eight kills for the Lutes and led the team with a .375 attack percentage, helping the team to a .222 mark for the match. Bremond had a .367 percentage and Moore hit .241 for the victors. North had 42 assists, and PLU got great back row play from Blair Bjorkman with 22 digs and Rose Mattson with 20. PLU also had eight team blocks, including four block assists each from Amy Wooten and Bremond. For Whitman, Brewer finished with nine kills, followed by Davis with eight and Moledina with seven. Annie Sing was all over the back row, tying PLU's Bjorkman for match-high honors with 22 digs. Davis added 15 digs and three block assists for Whitman.