by James Silberman
The Whitworth volleyball team retained their .500 record after last weekend with a five-set victory over Willamette and a five-set defeat to Lewis & Clark.
The Pirates got off to a fast start in the conference opener, dominating Willamette early with a 25-23 first-set win and a 27-25 second-set win, despite committing 16 errors.
The Pirates started the third set slow, quickly falling behind 12-6 and were never able to recover, losing the set 25-17.
“In the first two sets, even though we were making errors, we were making aggressive errors,” Head Coach Kati Bodecker said. “That’s what provided us with those two wins. In sets three and four we started getting careful and thinking too much.”
The Pirates jumped out to an 11-7 lead in the fourth set following an ace from sophomore setter Maddye Dinsmore, but lost six of the next nine points, while committing four errors. The Pirates lost the set 25-23.
In the fifth set, both conference rivals had trouble gaining the upper hand.
With the Pirates trailing 9-8 following a Willamette error, senior middle hitter Kristine Kardell began the Whitworth run with back-to-back kills off Dinsmore assists to put the Pirates up 10-9. Two points later, Kardell added kills to end two of the next three Whitworth points to put the Pirates on top 13-11. The next point ended with senior outside hitter Jalana White’s 20th kill of the night, bringing the Pirates to match point.
Kardell fittingly ended the match, teaming up with junior middle hitter Tori LaBrie for a block to give the Pirates their first conference win.
“My teammates’ confidence in me inspired me to finish the game strongly,” Kardell said. “I had been trying to make plays the whole game and it finally fell into place.”
Kardell finished the match with 14 kills and three blocks. White added 20 kills, 15 digs and an ace, and Dinsmore tied her season high with 56 assists.
Saturday night’s match against Lewis & Clark began similarly, and the Pirates once again cruised through the first two sets winning 25-23 and 25-14.
Nevertheless, the third set proved again to be a negative turning point for the Pirates.
“We put some changes in [during the break] and we didn’t respond as well. But we’ll learn from those mistakes,” Dinsmore said.
It started out close, but the Pioneers went on a 8-1 run to take a 19-10 lead. Kills from sophomore outside hitter Nicole Leonard, Kardell and White contributed to keeping them in the game, but they eventually fell 25-15.
The Pirates trailed 22-17 toward the end of the fourth set. However, the Bucs turned it around coming out of a timeout, scoring three consecutive points with sophomore defensive specialist Izze Ginley serving. But it was not enough for the second night in a row as they again lost the third and fourth sets.
The fifth set brought the crowd to its feet as the two teams went back and forth with 14 ties, seven lead changes and many exciting plays.
“When you’re in that fifth set, you put everything on the line, your adrenaline’s going, and everything just seems to take a step up,” Dinsmore said. “This is for my team, this is for my team. That’s what I think was going through all of our minds.”
With the Pirates trailing 14-13, an ace from White pulled the Pirates even, but they were not able to close out the Pioneers. Kills from senior middle hitter Briauna Stadeli, Leonard and Kardell also gave the Pirates chances to win, but it wasn’t enough as Lewis & Clark finally finished the match with back-to-back blocks.
Kardell led the Pirates with 17 kills and 4 blocks, White finished the match with 15 kills, three aces and three blocks, and senior defensive specialist Whitney Santos had 22 digs.
Dinsmore said that it will be a priority to maintain focus after the first two sets for the Pirates.
“Everyone of us has to step up and find something in us to realize the situation and take advantage of the opportunity that we have,” Dinsmore said. “When you’re up 2-0 it’s easy to just lay back and think it’s all gonna roll, but everyone has to mentally be there.”
The Pirates continue league play next week in Oregon against George Fox and Pacific Sept. 27 and 28.
Contact James Silberman at firstname.lastname@example.org