By Jared Spohr
Bearcat volleyball was back in action this weekend, facing off against archrival Linfield College on Friday night and Pacific University on Saturday.
After losing the first set to Linfield, the Bearcats were able to rally for three straight set victories to win the contest. First year Arianna Khan and sophomore Kendall Fox both had 12 kills, while first year Elena Vasquez recorded a game-high 21 digs. Vasquez’s defense has been superb so far this season, as this is the 5th time in the past eight games she has recorded at least 20 digs. First year Jaiden Mason also turned in a solid performance with nine kills, 25 assists, 18 digs and four block assists.
Both teams started out strong in the first set, as there were six ties and five lead changes through the first 23 points. However, Linfield was able to pull ahead and run away with the first set, 25-18.
Willamette changed the momentum in the second set, as they pulled ahead to a commanding score of 22-13. Linfield mounted a comeback, narrowing the gap to 22-18, but Willamette was able to grind out a win by the score of 25-20.
The Bearcats dominated the last set, as they held the lead entirely after the first four points.
While the Lady Bearcats only recorded one more kill than the Wildcats, excellent defense propelled them to victory. Willamette had 71 total digs, while Linfield had only 58.
Fox said, “We played hard the whole time and even though Linfield took the first set, we maintained focus and worked even harder to beat them in the next three. We never took a play off even though we were down at some points in the game.”
On Saturday, The Bearcats squared off against Pacific, in which they handled the Boxers in 3 consecutive set victories. Mason and Vasquez played excellent games. Mason had 11 kills and 13 assists, while Vasquez added a career-high 28 digs.
The Bearcats and Boxers were very close through the first 13 points of the match, but Willamette surged for a 7-1 run to make the score 14-7. After Pacific started to narrow the gap, the Bearcats pulled back ahead and won the set 25-19.
In the second set, the Bearcats played catch up after the Boxers came out strong. However, the ladies rallied for a comeback to tie the score at 19-19, and with a 5-0 run led by Fox and Mason, Willamette was ahead 24-20. Mason recorded the final kill of the set for a 25-21 victory.
In the last set, Khan and sophomore Madison Haley of the Bearcats had a sweet combo block that sparked a 5-0 run. Willamette held the lead for the rest of the way and went on to win the final set 25-22, resulting in a match victory for the ladies.
Mason talked about how to keep the momentum on their side moving forward this season.
“I think our key to success next weekend will be staying focused, playing with high intensity and never giving up. Our motto for the past week was to ‘Never give up, don’t ever give up’ (Jimmy Valvano), so I think that having this concept in everyone’s mind kept us all on the same page. To keep the momentum on our side we just need to keep playing as the best players we can be and never giving up. As the season continues, we all strive to get better everyday, together.”
Willamette’s two wins this weekend improved them to an overall record of 7-11, and 4-6 in the Northwest Conference. Their next contest is against Whitman College at Cone Field House on Friday, where they will look to continue their success.