Volleyball sweeps aside a pair of NWC rivals to retake first place

by Andrew Goodwin

In a week of quick transitions the Pirates dominated, taking down Whitman 3-0 Wednesday and Lewis & Clark 3-0 on Friday to jump into first place in the Northwest Conference.

Junior Taylor Wicht tallied 20 digs against Lewis and Clark, and senior Brenna Bruil led the Bucs against Whitman with 13 kills and a .480 hitting percentage. Sophomore setter Erin Whitefacilitated the offensive attack with 60 assists between the two matches.  

The Pirates’ offense impressed Head Coach Kati Bodecker, hitting .289 during the week.

“Our hitters have been swinging really aggressively,” Bodecker said. “Erin does a great job mixing up her sets and putting our hitters in a position to be successful.”

On Wednesday, White’s sets usually found the swing of Bruil. The middle blocker didn’t disappoint, and by the end of the match her presence opened up holes for other hitters. Whitman’s defenders often took their first step in the direction of Bruil, leaving White with two or three good offensive options.

Freshman Emiko Kahler and sophomore Cassandra Mendoza, were two of those options. The hitters totaled 19 kills between them. Kahler nearly ended up with a double-double, adding 17 digs to her eight kills.

The win was extra special for Wicht, as the Bucs picked up the victory on her 21st birthday. She finished with nine digs and five assists in the match as Whitworth moved into sole possession of first place in the conference.

There wasn’t much time to celebrate birthday wins, however. With a Friday match at Lewis & Clark looming, Whitworth hopped on a bus Thursday and headed to Portland. Fortunately for the Pirates, the travel did not affect their play. They swept the Pioneers 25-21, 25-16, 25-9 to maintain pole position in the conference.

“It feels great,” Wicht said. “It’s a quick turnaround between matches and it’s awesome to see that we don’t let that affect how we approach each game.”

Mendoza led the Whitworth attack in Portland. She finished with 10 kills and hit .250 for the Bucs. White assisted on 28 Pirate kills to finish with nine more assists than the entire Lewis and Clark team. She was also one of five Bucs who served up an ace.

“We did a great job [Friday] serving tough to take them out of system and we blocked really well,” Bodecker said.

Bruil led the blocking effort. The returning all-conference player was a part of four blocks. Mendoza pitched in with three blocking assists herself.

Next up, the first-place Pirates return home for a Wednesday match against Lewis and Clark State before hitting the road to take on George Fox and Pacific. Wednesday’s match will start at 6 p.m., and the Portland matches will begin at 5:30 p.m. and 5 p.m. respectively. As always, fans can follow the Bucs on WhitworthPirates.com.