by Corina Gebbers
Five hundred fifty-five fans attended last Saturday night’s volleyball game at the Fieldhouse to see Head Coach Steve Rupe clench his 200th win after his team went 2-0 Oct. 21 and 22 against visiting teams Linfield and Willamette. Just four games away from the end of Northwest Conference play, the Pirates are ranked 24th in NCAA Division III action and lead the conference with an 11-1 record.
“Pressure’s on,” said sophomore middle blocker Kristine Kardell. “Two more wins next weekend and we will be conference champs. It’s huge.”
To start the weekend, Whitworth beat Linfield 25-19, 25-19, and 25-17 on Friday night.
“As a team, we were so successful because we made aggressive moves to the ball, but made smooth, relaxed touches,” said junior libero Whitney Santos.
In the first set, Whitworth and Linfield shared the lead, tying the score six times before Whitworth finally pulled away when senior setter Bree Riddle set up senior outside hitter Ka’ipo Rocha for a kill to put the Pirates up 16-13. Three kills by senior outside hitter Kaimi Rocha boosted Whitworth to a six-point win.
“We played at a consistent level throughout the whole match,” Santos said. “In the first game we struggled with communication on defense, but after making adjustments we were able to defend them even better.”
The Pirates ran away with set two, grasping a solid five-point lead from the start and extending that lead to 10 by the end of the set. Whitworth hit .542 with kills by Kaimi Rocha, senior outside hitter Amanda Grumbach and sophomore right side hitter Jalana White.
The Pirates trailed Linfield for the first 10 points of the final set, but Kardell energized the Whitworth offense with back-to-back kills, and the Pirates surged to an eight-point finish. After a 10-2 run, Whitworth led 17-12, finishing the set with 19 kills.
“We had some lulls,” Kardell said. “But they were just from a lack of communication. I would say the whole weekend was exactly what we wanted it to be.”
The Pirates pounded 50 kills to Linfield’s 31, holding the Wildcats to a .170 percentage on the night. White finished with eight kills and an overall hitting percentage of .583, Grumbach contributed seven kills and 12 digs, Kaimi Rocha had 15 kills, Ka’ipo Rocha had 10 kills and Santos led her team with 17 digs.
Whitworth continued the action on Saturday night in the Fieldhouse against Willamette, beating the Bearcats 25-23, 25-12, 25-19.
The Pirates struggled to pull away from Willamette in the first set but held on to win by two. Kaimi Rocha had four kills, Ka’ipo Rocha had five kills and Grumbach had three kills.
The Pirates plundered the Bearcats in set two, leading by as many as 14. Whitworth hit .483 percent and held Willamette to just .069 percent. Kardell and Kaimi Rocha had four kills apiece while Riddle dished 14 assists and senior Jordon Hoffnagle contributed five straight serves midset to help the Pirates to a 12 point lead.
“The second game against Willamette was especially good for us,” Kardell said.
Whitworth finished the weekend with a quick third set, rolling over the Bearcats with a six-point win. Kaimi Rocha contributed five of her teams’ 15 third set kills while Ka’ipo Rocha had four kills and Riddle had 11 assists.
The Pirates hammered their opponents with 102 kills overall while holding Linfield and Willamette to just 60. Kaimi Rocha led her team with 28 kills, Ka’ipo Rocha had 20 kills, Grumbach contributed 15 kills, Santos had 27 digs and Riddle had 48 assists.
“I think we are the most unselfish team you will find,” Grumbach said. “It doesn’t matter who gets the credit through the stats, we are all out there for each other.
Whitworth will travel to Tacoma next weekend, Oct. 28 and 29, to face Puget Sound University (8-4 NWC) and Pacific Lutheran University (9-3 NWC). Action will begin Friday night at 7 p.m. and continue Saturday night at 5 p.m.