By Robert McKinney, Assistant Athletics Director, Communications
SALEM, Ore. -- Willamette University volleyball players Natalie Klotz (So., OH/OPP, Bonner Springs, KS/Bonner Springs HS), Emma Porter (Fy., S, Honolulu, HI/Mid-Pacific Institute), and Shyla Sato (Fy., LIB/DS, Honolulu, HI/MId-Pacific Institute) each recorded an impressive statistic to help lead the Bearcats as they rallied for a 3-1 win over George Fox University on Saturday, Sept. 28. The Bruins won the first set, 25-19, but WU battled back with wins of 25-14, 25-18 and 25-18 to prevail in the Northwest Conference match. The Cone Field House crowd was entertained as Klotz pounded out 18 kills, Porter supplied 40 assists and Sato registered 32 digs.
"Natalie had a great match tonight and came through with some great hits. We also got steady play from Dani Queja (11 kills) and Lexi Martin (10 kills). Shyla's defense kept us in rallies and really fired us up with some great digs. We just had great effort tonight. We continue to work hard and improve every match!"
— Willamette Head Coach Tom Shoji
The Bearcats improved to 3-10 on the season and evened their NWC record at 2-2. George Fox slipped to 4-9 overall and to 1-3 in the NWC.
Ashtyn Butler topped the Bruins' offensive chart with 11 kills. Bailey LeBreton earned 10 kills for GFU, while committing only one attacking error and finishing with a.391 hitting percentage. Sophia Lawrence provided 29 digs.
Overall, the Bearcats attained a .166 team hitting percentage, while limiting George Fox to a .098 hitting percentage. Leading the Bearcats were Lexi Martin (Fy., MH, Bellevue, WA/Interlake HS) at .368 and Klotz at .267. WU smacked 49 kills and GFU produced 40 kills. The Bearcats also held a 10-3 lead in service aces and a 90-82 edge in digs.
The Bruins gained an edge in blocking with 8.0 team total blocks compared to 5.0 total blocks for the Bearcats. LeBreton of GFU led all players with five block assists, while teammate Sadie Wilson added four block assists. Klotz and Kyana Benjamin (Jr., MH, Lubbock, TX/Lubbock HS) each earned three block assists for the Bearcats.
Sato's team-high 32 digs for Willamette were followed by 16 digs from Porter. Klotz accumulated 15 digs and Dani Queja (Fy., OH, Ewa Bach, HI/Maryknoll School) made 13 digs. Joining Lawrence of GFU in double figures for digs were Emily Carson with 14 and Paige O'Rear with 13.
George Fox grabbed a 5-1 lead in the first set and increased their advantage to 13-7 a bit later. WU pulled within a single point at 17-16 on an attacking error by GFU, but a 3-0 run by the Bruins expanded the margin to 20-16. The Bearcats cut the deficit to 21-19 four points later on a kill by Benjamin, before George Fox ended the set with a 4-0 run.
Willamette nearly held the lead from start to finish in the second set, with no lead changes and only one tie at 1-1. The Bearcats surged out to a 10-4 lead on the strength of one kill each by five WU players. A bit later, back-to-back kills by Martin helped expand WU's advantage to 10 points at 17-7. The Bearcats won the set, 25-14.
The teams were tied nine times in the third set, ending with a deadlock at 15-15 on a kill by Liv Alexander. WU put up the next five points, including two kills by Martin and one kill from Klotz, as the Bearcats secured a 20-15 lead. Willamette went on to win the set, 25-18.
Another solid triumph for the Bearcats in the fourth set also resulted in a score of 25-18, as Willamette completed the comeback. The Bearcats were in front 6-4 after a combination block by Klotz and Benjamin, and soon owned a 10-8 lead. Willamette jumped forward with a 9-2 run to increase the margin to 19-10. The run included two service aces from Porter, plus one ace from Queja and one ace from Jennifer Lane (Sr., MH, Salinas, CA/Notre Dame HS). GFU pulled within six points at 22-16 on a kill by O'Rear, but WU ended the match by winning three of the next five rallies.
The schedule for the Bearcats continues on Friday, Oct. 4, when Willamette will meet Whitworth University at Cone Field House. Match time is set for 7 p.m. (PDT).