by Leah Dassler
Following their narrow win over Whitman last Wednesday, the Pirates dominated Pacific University volleyball last Saturday night. Whitworth’s strong offense and accurate blocking overtook the Pacific Boxers 3-0, bringing the women’s Northwest Conference record this season to 2-2.
Hitting a much-improved percentage of .393 in the entire match, Whitworth’s offense took the lead in all three matches. Junior Nicole Leonard led the team with 13 kills, while freshman Cassandra Mendoza followed closely behind with 12 kills and the highest hitting percentage of the night—.706. These kills along with junior Shawna Korshavn’s seven kills and junior setter Maddye Dinsmore’s 37 assists delivered the solid offense that the Pirates needed to shut down Pacific. Pacific’s defense and .141 hitting average could not keep the score close.
“We were really focused on playing our game instead of worrying about what [Pacific University] was going to throw at us,” sophomore Haley Vick said.
The Pirate’s offensive focus at practice this week paid off, pulling the team together for the win, Vick said.
Whitworth’s early six-point lead in the first set started off the team’s upward momentum. Although several attack errors on the Pirate side allowed the Boxers to tie the score 12-12, Mendoza, sophomore Brenna Bruil, and Leonard’s combined nine kills in the second half of the game regained the Pirate lead. Pacific’s game point attack error finished the set 25-19.
“We came in with the focus tonight that we wanted to find our rhythm offensively. We’re a team that when we play well offensively, everything else kind of comes together,” Head Coach Kati Bodecker said.
Pacific’s well-placed tips in the beginning of the second set initially challenged Whitworth’s defense, as the teams stayed within one point of each other for five points. Dinsmore, however, moved the Pirates ahead with a second-touch tip over Pacific’s blockers. Vick and Leonard then targeted Pacific’s left back defense, making two kills.
Lack of communication between Pacific’s players became obvious when they dropped a ball and made two net errors. Whitworth’s aggressive blocking as well as Mendoza’s and Korshavn’s hitting efforts left Pacific’s defense scrambling, and the Pirates proceeded to win 25-11.
“Our main key tonight was to play free and compete. I think we did that. When you all commit to the same thing and play selflessly, then it gets really easy to get excited about everyone’s awesome kills or their awesome digs,” Dinsmore said.
Dinsmore again tipped several balls over the Boxers’ blockers in the third game. This, along with two kills from Mendoza, pushed the Pirates three points ahead of the Boxers. The Boxers’ offense, although inconsistent at first when they hit several balls out, tied up the score 12-12, challenging the Pirate defense with kills over blockers’ reach. Mendoza’s solid kills eventually overcame Pacific’s blockers, and she finished the Pirate sweep with a kill to the left back.
The women will challenge the Willamette Bearcats in Salem, Ore. on Friday. They hope to approach the game with hard work in practice this week so they can beat Willamette, Bodecker said.