Whitman Stuns #14 PLU

News Release Date:
Saturday, October 13

Walla Walla, Wash.- In front of a raucous crowd at Sherwood Center, the Whitman women's volleyball stormed back from an 0-2 set deficit against conference-leading Pacific Lutheran on Saturday night to hand the Lutes their first conference loss of the season.

Olivia Nielson, Sr.

The 5th-set victory was especially sweet for the Missionaries, who have already lost 15-13 in the fifth set three times this season. Early on, it didn't look like a fifth set was going to be a possibility. In an epic opening stanza, the Missionaries came back from an eight-point deficit only to see half a dozen set points slip between their fingers before finally falling 32-30.

The second set was less epic, but equally disappointing. After holding an early lead, the Lutes went on a run saw them win seven out of nine points in one stretch to take control before finally closing out the set 25-20.

In the third, it appeared the Whit women were headed for more of the same. After holding 13-9 and 18-16 leads, Pacific Lutheran upped their game and appeared headed for a straight-sets victory when they took a 22-21 lead. Whitman fought back tenaciously, however, as they won four of the next five points to win the set and seize the momentum.

The fourth set was a thing of beauty. As first year Head Coach Helm said, the Whitman fans, "kept Sherwood rocking with their boisterous cheers and chants," while the players played arguably their best set this season. The Missionaries floored 14 of their 30 kill attempts as a team, making only two errors on the way for an amazing .400 hitting percentage en route to a 25-15 victory, which set up the dramatic conclusion.

Rachel Cline, Jr.

The Lutes were clearly rattled by the boisterous student section and the incendiary play of the Whits early in the fifth set, as they made four consecutive serving errors to give Whitman an 8-4 lead. After switching ends, PLU drew within two points twice, but a thundering kill from junior Jillian Davis (El Paso, TX) earned Whitman three game points at 14-11. PLU managed to save one, but with Whitman receiving on the second, libero Hannah Linsenmeyer (Mill Creek, WA) floated a perfect pass to Rachel Cline (Seattle, WA) who executed a perfect set to Jazmine Moledina (Woodside, CA). Moledina's kill ricochet harmlessly off a Lute and into the Whitman student section, which stormed the court to celebrate the victory. Final score: 30-32, 20-25, 25-23, 25-15, 15-12 Whitman.

Leading the Whits in kills, as usual, was Davis with 24, but the victory was a total team effort. Senior Olivia Nielson (Anchorage, AK) had a superlative game with 16 kills in 29 attempts for a .517 hitting percentage to go with 8 blocks (one solo). Fellow Alaskan Courtney Brewer (Anchorage) added 9 kills. Rounding out Whitman's stat sheet were Moledina with 5, Megan Bafus (Kenmore, WA) with 4, Franny Gardner (Santa Cruz, CA) with 4, Becca Gotz (Bothell, WA) with 2, and Cline also with 2.

Linsenmeyer led the team with 20 digs to go with 3 service aces, while Cline compiled 51 of Whitman's 56 assists.

After the match, first year Helm glowed with praise for his team, "I am very proud of this team. Some teams may not know how to recover from being down two sets, but these ladies remained tough. It was a total team effort. With three of our student athletes out due to injuries, our team remained resilient knowing we didn't have much depth. I'm so very happy for them. They deserved to win a match like this after all the hard work they put into the season thus far."

With the win, Whitman improved to 4-6 in conference play, good enough for fifth place. Things only figure to get better for Whitman, as four of their last six games are against teams ranked below them in the conference standings. Come support the team on Wednesday the 17th, when they will look to complete a season sweep against Whitworth at home. The Pirates are coming off their own upset over #13 UPS.