by James Silberman
The Whitworth volleyball team returns home this week after sweeping a two-game conference trip with a thrilling comeback against George Fox and a three-set win over Pacific on the road. The Pirates are now 8-7 on the season and 3-1 in conference play.
Whitworth continued its trend of nail-biting matches with a five-set victory (20-25, 21-25, 25-17, 26-24, 22-20) over George Fox last Friday night. However, instead of holding off an opposing comeback similar to last week’s home matches, the Pirates fell behind 0-2 to the Bruins and had to make a comeback of their own.
“We were kind of in shock after the first two sets,” sophomore outside hitter Nicole Leonard said. “But we came together and played with more enthusiasm to come back.”
After a close third set win, aided by a 6-0 run, a Maddye Dinsmore ace began a neck-and-neck fourth set that would include 10 ties and four lead changes.
The two teams stayed even until at 24-24 a kill from senior middle hitter Kristine Kardell and a Bruin error pulled the Pirates even at two sets apiece, setting up what would be the Pirates’ third consecutive five-set match.
Following a 15-15 tie at the end of regulation, kills from senior outside hitter Jalana White and Dinsmore saved two match points for the Pirates to tie the game at 19 in extended time. Then, following an error from each team to tie the game at 20, a pair of kills from Kardell ended the match. The 22-20 fifth set was the highest score past a game to 15 in George Fox history.
Whitworth is now 3-2 on the year in five-setters.
“We are used to playing five-set matches,” White said. “It is getting easier and easier to play with pressure on us.”
White finished with a game-high 19 kills and 12 digs. Kardell added 18 kills and six blocks. Dinsmore recorded a season-high in assists for the second consecutive match with 59, and senior defensive specialist Whitney Santos finished with a team-high 21 digs.
After three consecutive five-set matches to begin conference play, a quick 3-0 victory over Pacific (25-15, 25-17, 25-16) was a welcome win for the Pirates.
“It was good to leave a match feeling like we played consistent and efficient with our offense and our defense,” Head Coach Kati Bodecker said. “The match against Pacific was a very good example of who we are as a team and as a program.”
Whitworth set the tone early with a commanding 13-3 lead to open the first set following three consecutive aces from senior setter Anna Buck. The Pirates then cruised easily to a 25-17 win.
The second set opened with a service error from Pacific, giving Whitworth a 1-0 lead. The Pirates did not give up that lead once during the second set and won 25-17.
After being up two sets to none in both of last week’s games only to give up that lead in the third and fourth sets, the Pirates were determined to finish this one in three.
“We really wanted to make a statement,” Leonard said. “We wanted to identify ourselves as a team that can finish.”
The Boxers showed signs of life in the third set getting out to a 5-2 lead, but the Pirates went on a 16-4 senior middle blocker Briauna Stadeli-led run giving Whitworth an 18-9 lead. Whitworth held that lead to finish the road trip undefeated.
Leonard had game-highs with 11 kills and 18 digs. Stadeli added 10 kills and a game-high four blocks, while Kardell finished with 10 kills and a .600 hitting percentage. Whitworth more than doubled Pacific in kills with 47 to the Boxers 20.
The Pirates will attempt to continue a two-game win streak Oct. 4-5 against Puget Sound and Pacific Lutheran in the Fieldhouse.
Contact James Silberman at email@example.com