by Megan John
Whitworth volleyball split games on the road the weekend of Nov. 2, losing to the Pacific Boxers 3-2 before finishing the season with a win against the Linfield Wildcats 3-1.
The Pirates found themselves in a hole to start the match as Pacific quickly went up 5-0. Whitworth steadily made its way back, forcing 12 ties and three lead changes in the set, including a run of three kills in a row from junior outside hitter Jalana White to tie the game at 15. The Bucs took their first lead of the night off of a Boxer attack error and then carried on to win the set 25-22.
“We fought really hard,” White said. “We didn’t start out strong but we finished strong and pulled it together about halfway through the set.”
Pacific jumped ahead again in the second set 6-3 but Whitworth came back again, taking the lead 10-9 on a kill from junior outside hitter Abi Hedlund. The Boxers trailed the Pirates before coming back to tie the game at 22 and then 23, then a kill from junior middle blocker and Pacific errors gave Whitworth a 25-23 win.
Whitworth got down in the third set 6-3 but fought back with kills from Hedlund and junior middle blocker Briauna Stadeli and an ace from freshman setter Maddye Dinsmore to tie the set at 14. The Bucs went up 18-15 before Pacific went on a run to win the set 25-21.
“Our communication fluctuates,” junior libero Whitney Santos said. “Sometimes we’ll be really loud and positive, sometimes we’ll be really quiet and that was the key factor in our change in play.”
Pacific kept the momentum and took advantage of a single lead change in the fourth set to gain control of the lead and win 25-21, tying the match 2-2 and forcing a fifth set.
The Boxers took the lead in the final set 5-2 but the Pirates challenged that when a kill from Hedlund and a kill from White followed by a service ace tied the game 8-8. Pacific shut down the run before Whitworth could challenge any more to win the final set 15-10.
“We took them to five games and it was a tough match,” Santos said. “We played with heart and we played with everything we had and I think that’s what’s so commendable about our team – we always play our hardest and we never give up.”
Despite the loss, Whitworth was able to carry the strong match against Pacific into the game against Linfield the next night and come out to win the first set 25-20.
“We played at about the same pace we did the day before,” head coach Steve Rupe said. ”We were able to finish plays and finish rallies. We just played a solid match.”
The Wildcats led in the beginning of the first set but kills from White, Hedlund and Stadeli gave the Bucs the lead 4-3. Whitworth gradually widened the gap, with its largest lead at 22-12 on a service ace from sophomore defensive specialist Katie Adams, and went on to win 25-16.
Linfield found a rhythm in the third set of the night, taking advantage of Pirate errors early, and went up 2-0. Whitworth worked to take the lead away, going on 6-0 and 4-0 scoring runs, but the Wildcats led the rest of the set to win 25-23.
A kill from junior middle blocker Kristine Kardell put the Pirates up 1-0 to start the fourth set. Whitworth pushed to control the speed and the Wildcats kept up through the whole game to force multiple match points in a set with a total of 14 ties.
“Every time they tied it up with us we sided right back out,” Rupe said. “We finally broke through with a side out and then made good defensive plays.”
At 27-27, the Bucs’ final sideout came from a kill by freshman outside hitter Nicole Leonard, followed by a kill from Hedlund to end the match 29-27.
Whitworth finished the season with a record of 10-13 overall and 6-10 in conference, and the last half of the season proved to be promising for the year to come.
“We had a rough start to the year and there’s a lot of adversity that happened on our team,” Santos said. “To know that we’re good enough to compete with good teams and since we’re all coming back, that’s just really exciting for us.”
Contact Megan John at firstname.lastname@example.org.