by James Silberman
The Whitworth volleyball team had its two-game winning streak snapped in a pair of heartbreakers last weekend against two nationally-ranked teams, No. 16 Puget Sound and No. 15 Pacific Lutheran.
In the match against PLU, for the fifth time in six conference matches, the Pirates found themselves in a winner-take-all fifth set. The Pirates dropped to 9-9 on the year and 3-3 in conference play.
In the weekend opener, a furious Pirates’ rally came up short against Puget Sound (25-16, 25-15, 20-25, 20-25, 15-13). After falling behind 2-0, the Pirates felt they had something to prove, Head Coach Kati Bodecker said, describing the vibe in the locker room during the break.
“We were frustrated, and we voiced our frustration,” Bodecker said. “We have worked way too hard and the coaching staff has worked way too hard for that to be our performance.”
Senior middle hitter Briauna Stadeli said her mindset changed after the break. The senior was not impressed with Whitworth’s play, she said.
“I was pissed off,” Stadeli said. “We needed to play as a team with energy, and we weren’t playing like that the first two sets.”
The Pirates came out of the break a different team as they took set three 25-20. Whitworth had 16 kills to only two errors; the best ratio for the Pirates on the season.
Whitworth kept the momentum going into the fourth set as they raced out to a 5-2 lead following a Stadeli block.
“I just tried my hardest to make the plays that needed to happen,” Stadeli said. “I tried to give energy to the team because I know that’s what we needed.”
The energy provided by Stadeli inspired the Pirates as they went on to score the next five points taking a commanding 10-2 lead and held off the Loggers, again by a score of 25-20, to send the match to a fifth set.
Despite a block from senior middle hitter Kristine Kardell to open the set, the Pirates found themselves down 5-2, at which point Bodecker challenged her players.
“I told them in matches like this, we’re going to have to earn every single point and we’re going to have to make big-time plays,” Bodecker said. “I always tell them make a play that will inspire your teammates.”
The Pirates took this to heart as senior outside hitter Jalana White brought Whitworth within two with a kill for the next point. Later, kills from sophomore outside hitter Nicole Leonard, Kardell and sophomore setter Maddye Dinsmore tied the set at nine.
The two teams would split the next eight points to tie the game at 13, but a pair of errors by the Pirates gave the Loggers the win.
Leonard had a team-high 15 kills and 23 digs, White added 14 kills and 6 digs while Stadeli had five kills, four blocks and an ace.
Coming off a tough loss, the Pirates played another hotly-contested match, but were unable to hold off the Lutes (25-18, 15-25, 19-25, 25-20, 15-11), who entered the match on a seven-game win streak.
Whitworth started slowly and fell 25-18 in the first set while committing more errors than kills.
“We struggled to come out strong because were feeling out the other team. We were feeling out the match,” Bodecker said. “We just wait a little too long to start playing.”
The Pirates, however, did not wait as long as the previous match to start their comeback.
Leading 11-7 in the second set, Stadeli served up back-to-back aces to continue a 12-3 Whitworth run that put the Pirates ahead 20-10. A few points later, Whitworth tied the match at one set apiece, winning the second set 25-20.
The third set began with the Lutes taking a 5-2 lead. But the Pirates had another run, scoring six of the next seven points, all coming from kills. Whitworth continued to play well, winning the set to take a 2-1 lead in the match.
Despite the Pirates’ run, the Lutes were not ready to lose their winning streak as they bounced back to win the fourth set 25-20.
Things began poorly for the Pirates to begin the fifth set as they fell behind 12-6. However, the Pirates went on one last run, scoring the next four points on three errors from the Lutes and a kill from Stadeli to pull within two at 12-10. Nonetheless, as in the previous night, the Pirates could not pull off the upset as the Lutes took the fifth and deciding set 15-12.
“It makes us stronger as a team,” White said. “It’s hard to lose games in the fifth set but we’ve won games in the fifth set too.”
White led the Pirates with 23 kills. Leonard had 15 kills and 24 digs, while Stadeli added a season-high six aces.
Whitworth will attempt to get back on track Oct. 9 in the Fieldhouse against Whitman.
Contact James Silberman at email@example.com