by Corina Gebbers
On Oct. 28 and 29, the Whitworth volleyball team traveled to Tacoma and split with two top Northwest Conference teams, the University of Puget Sound and Pacific Lutheran University.
“UPS and PLU are two really tough teams who always bring it,” sophomore outside hitter Abi Hedlund said. “They are games that we really look forward to every year.”
On Friday night the Pirates beat Puget Sound (8-5 in NWC) 25-22, 26-24, 25-16.
“We played one of our better matches of the season on Friday night,” Whitworth head coach Steve Rupe said. “It was a complete team effort with big plays being made by every starter.”
In the first set, sophomore middle blocker Kristine Kardell had five kills, senior outside hitter Kaimi Rocha had five kills, sophomore setter Jalana White had three kills, and senior setter Bree Riddle dished 11 assists. Whitworth hit .196, better than the opponent’s percentage of .180. However, the Loggers played evenly with the Pirates, matching the 15 kills in the first set.
Set two went into extra points after UPS tied the score 24-24, but Whitworth won the set on two consecutive points. Grumbach had four kills, Kaimi Rocha had three kills, White had three kills and senior outside hitter Ka’ipo Rocha had two kills.
“We played all together as one unit,” Hedlund said. “Which is what we really love to do.”
The Pirates finished the night right out of the locker room. Despite two close first matches, Whitworth was able to roll to a nine-point win in the final set after Kardell’s match-winning stuff block.
“Kristine had her best weekend so far this year,” Rupe said. “She was a major contributor offensively both nights.”
Friday night’s win over the Loggers was Whitworth’s second consecutive sweep over UPS this year.
“Whitworth volleyball hasn’t swept [UPS] in both weekends for a very long time,”Riddle said. “It was a great accomplishment for this team.”
Riddle contributed 33 assists, while Grumbach contributed a match-high 19 digs and Kardell had 10 kills. The Pirates hit .197 overall with a total of 44 kills. Defensively, Whitworth shut down the Logger offense with 72 digs.
“We gave everything we could at UPS,” Riddle said. “We played great all the way around and we wanted the win.”
The Pirates continued action on Saturday against Pacific Lutheran University. The Lutes swept Whitworth 25-22, 26-24, 25-16.
“We had a big emotional game on Friday and fell a little flat against a very good PLU team that played their best match of the year,” Rupe said.
None of Whitworth’s players managed to hit in double figures. Meanwhile, PLU hammered the ball with a .333 hitting percent and 43 kills compared to Whitworth’s 33.
“They played a great game that pushed us back a little,” Riddle said.
Kaimi Rocha led her team with eight kills and 10 digs, Kardell contributed seve kills, Grumbach had five kills and nine digs, and Riddle had 30 assists.
“The good news is, with the split we are still in first place,” Rupe said.
The Pirates face Lewis & Clark University on Nov. 4 for the chance at an automatic bid to the NCAA Division III Tournament.
“This last weekend was very good for us to learn how to bring emotion every night,” Rupe said. “You can not have a let-down on any given night when you are in the tournament; otherwise you will lose and be done.”
The Pirates will host Lewis &Clark for senior night in the Fieldhouse at 7 p.m.