By Carrie Fox
The WU volleyball team started off their weekend with a game against Whitman College. Freshman Jaiden Mason of Willamette University finished the match with a triple-double, but Whitman College built a 2-0 lead on its way to a 3-1 win over the Bearcats.
Mason earned 14 kills, 18 assists and 14 digs for the Bearcats, as she registered her first triple-double at the collegiate level. Sophomore Kendall Fox added nine kills for the Bearcats, while sophomore Lauren Stiles contributed eight kills. Stiles achieved a .280 hitting percentage. Freshman Elena Vasquez topped all players with 23 digs. Fox finished with 11 digs and Stiles had nine.
Sophomore Kunani Tuttle entered the match at the third set adding a spark for the Bearcats and helped them build a 10-0 lead. She registered 11 assists during the set and 14 assists for the match.
In the second set there were 10 ties and four lead changes. Willamette tied the score three times before moving in front, 11-10, on an ace by Stiles. WU went on to hold a 17-14 advantage after back-to-back kills by junior Larsen Fellows. Later on the Bearcats had a 22-19 lead. Kills from Khan and Stiles gave them two more points, but the Blues ended up pulling out a 26-24 win for Whitman.
In the third set, Tuttle assisted a kill by senior Emma Liband to start the set and a kill by Mason gave Willamette a 2-0 lead. Tuttle provided assists on each of the next four rallies as the Bearcats added four more kills for a 6-0 lead. Mason tacked on another kill, assisted by Stiles. Fox added two kills, assisted by Stiles and Tuttle, as Willamette’s lead increased to 10-0. The Bearcats ended up taking the set 25-15.
Willamette opened the fourth set with a 4-1 lead, but the next nine points went to Whitman. The Bearcats reduced the margin to 18-15 on a combo block by Liband and junior Dreux Bertolucci, but Whitman ended up recording the final seven points of the match.
“I think in each game we’ve played this season everybody has improved and it’s showing in the way we’ve been playing lately,” Elena Vasquez said. “I’m really excited to see how the rest of the season goes and to be able to take everything we’ve learned and use it next year.”
The Bearcats then took on the Whitworth University Pirates on Saturday. Willamette won the first set 25-21, but the Pirates ended up taking the next three sets to earn the win. Mason led the Bearcats in kills with a total of 11. Dreux Bertolucci added nine kills with Liband and Stiles each providing seven kills. Vasquez led all players with 25 digs. Mason’s 12 digs were matched by Stiles, and Tuttle and Mason also recorded 17 assists.
The Bearcats scored the first four points and never trailed in the first set. Willamette owned a slim lead at 9-8, but the Bearcats answered back with a combo block by Liband and Fox, as well as an ace by freshman Nina Hernandez. Later on, the Bearcats were in front by just a 14-13 margin before scoring four consecutive points, starting with two kills by Stiles. The Bearcats tallied the next two points on a kill by sophomore Jennifer Lane and an ace from Mason to start a 4-2 run for a 25-21 win.
Despite Whitworth taking the next three sets, Willamette finished with 43 kills and hit .168 as a team. The Bearcats also gained an edge with 13.0 team total blocks compared to 10.0 blocks for Whitworth.
“We played against tough competition, had long rallies and good plays this weekend,” Stiles said. “We’ve grown a lot as a team this season and we’re still a very young team. I’m excited to see how we will continue to progress and compete throughout the rest of the season.”
The Bearcats will play at University of Puget Sound on Friday, Oct. 27 in Tacoma, Washington. The match is set to begin at 7 p.m. (PDT).