Red-hot Whits roll to fifth straight NWC volleyball victory
WALLA WALLA — The beat goes on for the Whitman College women’s volleyball.
The red-hot Missionaries rolled to their fifth consecutive Northwest Conference victory Saturday night at Sherwood Center with a dominating 25-17, 25-17, 25-14 romp past Lewis & Clark College. Perhaps even more impressive, it was Whitman’s third straight three-set sweep, and it avenged a five-set loss to the Pioneers Sept. 29 in Portland, Ore.
“We had great motivation for this match for a couple of reasons,” first-year Whitman coach Matt Helm said.
Olivia Nielson, Sr.
“First, there was revenge for our loss to Lewis & Clark in the first round, a match where we were up two sets and let it slip away from us. But also, it gave our seniors the greatest gift you can give on senior evening, and that is to play well and get the win.”
Four Whitman seniors — middle blocker Olivia Nielson (Anchorage, Alaska), middle blocker Courtney Brewer (Anchorage, Alaska), opposite Rachel Shober (Monroe, Wash.) and outside hitter Carrie Cecil (Dedham, Wash.) — played their final match at Sherwood Center Saturday as the Whits completed a weekend sweep of George Fox and L&C to climb into sole possession of fourth place in the NWC standings.
The Missionaries have just two matches remaining. They travel to McMinnville, Ore., Friday for a rematch with Linfield and they close out the season Saturday at third-place Pacific.
Two Whitman wins and two Pacific losses during the final weekend — Pacific entertains Whitworth Friday night — would give the Missionaries a share of third place in the final NWC standings with the Boxers.
Carrie Cecil, Sr.
“It has flown by quick,” Helm said of his first season in charge of Whitman’s volleyball program. “And I think this is an excellent start. We came in with a mind set of building a winning culture and also having a lot of fun in our gym, and I think we have.”
Nielson and junior outside hitter Jillian Davis (El Paso, Texas) led the Missionaries at the net Saturday with 11 and 10 kills, respectively.
Nielson led the team with a sizzling .556 hitting percentage, led the way with seven block assists and chipped in with seven digs and two serving aces. Davis’ stat line included eight digs, three block assists and one ace.
Junior setter Rachel Cline (Seattle) was credited with 34 assists. She also had seven digs, a pair of service aces and one kill.
Freshman Hannah Linsenmayer (Mill Creek, Wash.) led the Missionaries in digs with 15 and in serving aces with three. Whitman had eight aces overall.
Brewer finished her final Sherwood Center match with seven kills and a solid .353 hitting percentage, one stuff block and one block assist. Shober and Cecil contributed two kills each, with Shober also recording four digs and one assist while Cecil, who hit .400, added one dig to the Missionary cause.
Jennifer Dowdy led the Pioneers with eight kills. Elena Hoff finished the night with 14 digs and Kayla Ernewein totaled three block assists. The Pioneers had four serving aces on the night, one each by Dowdy, Vanessa Hall, Kelsie Dorpat and Sarah Sandholtz.
Whitman takes an 8-6 NWC record into its final two matches. And at 10-11 overall, a winning record is still within the Missionaries’ reach. Last-place Lewis & Clark dropped to 2-12 and 6-17.
“The attitude right now is great,” Helm said of his team’s approach to the final two matches. “The character of this team is that they just don’t want to give up and let up at all. We’ve got the gas pedal to the floor.”