By Robert McKinney, Assistant Athletics Director, Communications
SALEM, Ore. -- Natalie Klotz (So., OH/OPP, Bonner Springs, KS/Bonner Springs HS) and Dani Queja (Fy., OH, Ewa Bach, HI/Maryknoll School) each contributed nine kills against Linfield College on Wednesday, Sept. 18, as the Bearcats swept the Wildcats, 25-15, 25-10 and 25-19, at Cone Field House to open Northwest Conference play. The Bearcats, who hit .286 during the match, limited Linfield to a .021 hitting percentage.
Willamette improved to 2-8 on the season, 1-0 in the NWC. Linfield fell to 4-9 overall, 0-1 in the NWC.
Klotz and Queja led a balanced attack for the Bearcats, with Jennifer Lane (Sr., MH, Salinas, CA/Notre Dame HS) adding seven kills and Kyana Benjamin (Jr., MH, Lubbock, TX/Lubbock HS) producing six kills. Benjamin had no attacking errors and led all players with a .500 hitting percentage. Lane hit .375 and Klotz hit .364, as each committed only one attacking error. Lane and Klotz both registered four block assists, with Klotz also providing seven digs.
Queja topped WU with 11 digs, while Emma Porter (Fy., S, Honolulu, HI/Mid-Pacific Institute) and Shyla Sato (Fy., LIB/DS, Honolulu, HI/MId-Pacific Institute) each finished with nine digs. Porter kept the offense going with 26 of the team's 36 assists. The Bearcats amassed 39 kills, compared to 22 kills for the Wildcats.
It didn't show up in the offensive stats, but Jessica Nash (Fy., S, Santa Clarita, CA/Saugus HS) was a key player for the Bearcats. She was the server on 12 of Willamette's points in the first set, plus seven points in the second set. In the first set, Willamette had strings of five and seven consecutive points on Nash's serves. WU went on a 7-0 run with Nash serving in the second set. Nash ended the evening with two of the Bearcats' seven service aces. Also earning two aces were Porter and Lane. The Bearcats had six service errors.
"We really did a nice job of 'finishing' tonight, something we haven't done too well recently. We always were working really hard in this match. We got a huge lift from Jessica Nash, who really kept them out of their system. Very efficient work by Queja and Klotz on the outside. Really a nice team win!"
— Willamette Head Coach Tom Shoji
Linfield's top attackers were Hannah Waterman and Megan Stanek, each with five kills. Anikalea Keliiheleua tacked on four kills. Waterman had no attacking errors and hit .455, while Keliiheleua made just one hitting error and achieved a .429 attack percentage. Maya Nakasone recorded a match-high 15 digs.
The Wildcats earned just two service aces and had eight serving errors. Although Waterman and Keliiheleua excelled on the attack, the Wildcats committed a total of 20 hitting errors.
Willamette trailed 6-3 in the first set. Linfield held a 7-5 lead when Nash served for the first time. With Nash serving, the Bearcats surged into a 10-7 lead with two points on aces. The Wildcats pulled within 12-11 on a kill by Stanek and got as close as 15-14 on a combo block by Lori Cimmiyotti and Aylea Dixon. WU scored the next two points on a Linfield serving error and a combination block from Lane and Lexi Martin (Fy., MH, Bellevue, WA/Interlake HS) for a 17-14 advantage.
Linfield tallied the next point to reduce the deficit to two 17-15, but another serving error sent the ball back to Willamette. Nash then served seven consecutive points, starting with back-to-back kills by Queja. Two attacking errors followed for the Wildcats, before a kill by Lane, assisted by Nash, gave WU a 23-15 lead. A Linfield attacking error followed, and then Porter ended the set with another kill assisted by Nash.
A 5-0 run early in the second set gave Willamette an 8-3 lead. Two of the points were scored on service aces by Porter. The Bearcats soon tacked on a 9-1 run for a 16-6 margin. Included within the run were seven consecutive points scored with Nash serving. Queja produced three kills during the run. WU maintained its sizable lead for a 25-10 win.
The third set was a battle through the first 28 points, which featured nine ties and five lead changes. Willamette pulled away from a 14-14 deadlock by winning five consecutive rallies, including one kills each from Klotz, Benjamin, Queja and Martin. The Wildcats reduced the deficit to 21-17 a bit later on a kill by Keliiheleua, but Willamette countered with a 4-2 run to end the match.
Willamette will play at Lewis & Clark College on Friday, Sept. 20. Match time is scheduled for 7 p.m. (PDT).