Missionaries suffer first home volleyball loss of season

Monday, Oct 8, 2012

WALLA WALLA — Whitman College’s home-court magic performed a disappearing act Saturday night at Sherwood Center as resilient, red-hot Pacific invaded the Missionaries’ friendly confines and came away with a 10-25, 25-20, 25-21, 21-25, 15-13 Northwest Conference volleyball victory.

The victory was the Boxers’ seventh in their last nine outings and upped their NWC record to 6-2 and their overall mark to 7-9. It was also Pacific’s second five-set triumph in as many nights following a hard-earned victory at Whitworth University in Spokane on Friday.

In fact, five of the Boxers’ last seven victories have been five-set affairs.

Whitman, which had won its only two previous matches at Sherwood Center — including a four-set victory over Linfield Friday night — is 3-5 in conference matches and 5-10 overall.

“It’s definitely disappointing to lose in five sets,” Whitman coach Matt Helm. “I thought we really played well at times, but we also missed some key points at crucial times.”

Disappointing as the loss was, though, Helm said that taking one of the top teams in the conference to five sets was encouraging.

“Definitely,” Helm said. “I think we are showing that we are competitive in a lot of matches. We just have to figure out a way to win them.”

Junior outside hitter Jillian Davis (El Paso, Texas) had another big night for the Missionaries with 21 kills and 12 digs. Junior setter Rachel Cline (Seattle) contributed 35 assists and freshman libero Hannah Linsenmayer (Mill Creek, Wash.) led her team with 17 digs.

Helm additionally singled out the play of Jazmine Moledina and Olivia Nielson.

“I thought Jazmine had a good game last night,” Helm said of Moledina, a sophomore outside hitter from Woodside, Calif. “She received the ball well and passed it well.”

Moledina finished her night with eight kills, three blocks and two digs.

“And Olivia was good once again,” he added of Nielson, a senior middle blocker from Anchorage, Alaska. “I believe she’s No. 2 in the conference as far as blocks, and she got a lot of touches against Pacific.”

Nielson’s stat line included seven kills, two blocks, one dig and a pair of service aces.

Linsenmayer led the Whits with three aces and junior Becca Gotz (Bothell, Wash.) chipped in with one ace, one kill and 10 digs.

Three Pacific players finished the night with double-doubles.

Mariah McHolland led the Boxers with 16 kills and 10 blocks to go along with a .306 hitting percentage. Marie Rewick had 11 kills and 13 digs while Alexa Block added nine kills. 

Megan Zablan finished with 35 assists and 10 digs, and Becky Sheller had 20 digs.

 Whitman continues its five-match home stand next Friday and Saturday when it entertains University of Puget Sound and Pacific Lutheran University to begin the second round of conference play.

Puget Sound is 6-2 in the conference and is tied with Pacific for second place in the NWC standings. Pacific Lutheran leads the league with an 8-0 record and is 14-2 overall.

The Lutes were idle Saturday, but UPS swept a home match against Lewis & Clark 25-15, 25-20, 25-13.

In Saturday’s other NWC tilts, George Fox won at home over Willamette 17-25, 25-19, 25-20, 25-20 and Linfield was defeated at Whitworth 25-14, 22-25, 20-25, 25-22, 16-14.

“We’re going to go after it and have a real good week of practice,” Helm said as he looked ahead to the upcoming UPS and PLU matches. “We want to stay positive and go in with a mind set of competing and playing well.

“We’re at home again, and that’s a plus for us. All of our students will be back after a fall break and we’re looking for a lot of support.”

Pacific opens up the second half of the NWC season on the road, with the Boxers playing on Friday at George Fox.