RICHARDSON, Texas – The 2016 volleyball season came to an end for the Whitworth Pirates on Friday night with a 25-20, 25-13, 25-19 loss to 4th-ranked Texas-Dallas in the opening round of the NCAA Division III tournament at the UTD Activity Center.
Whitworth finishes the season 21-6 with its third straight trip to the national tournament. The Comets improve to 31-2 and advance to play Hendrix in the second round on Saturday.
Cassandra Mendoza led the Pirates with nine kills, while Emiko Kahler had eight and Brenna Bruil finished with seven. But the Whitworth offense never got untrack against the taller UTD lineup as the Comets finished with nine team blocks and limited the Bucs to a hitting percentage of .071. Erin White finished with 23 assists and nine digs and Taylor Wicht totaled 17 digs. Haley Vick was in on three blocks for Whitworth.
The Pirates were fighting from behind all match. UTD took leads of 12-6 and 17-11 in the opening frame before Whitworth rallied to within 22-20 on Cara Wonsley's service ace. But the Comets were able to put the set away on a block and a kill by Michelle Toro, the American Southwest Conference Player of the Year.
UTD opened the second set with another 12-6 lead, but this time the Comets kept the Pirates at-bay all the way through. UTD hit .424 in the second frame with 15 kills and only one error in 33 attacks.
The final set played out in a fashion similar to the first. The Comets jumped out to an 11-6 lead, and were eventually ahead 20-11. But Whitworth was able to close to within 23-19 on a kill by Kahler. UTD ended the Pirate rally with a kill and a service ace from Fayna Zeng.
Abby Barth, the Freshman of the Year in the ASC East Division in 2016, led UTD with 11 kills and 18 digs. The Comets finished with a team hitting percentage of .265.
The future looks bright for Whitworth. The Pirates graduate Bruil and Vick, both starting middle blockers. But the team will return three All-Northwest Conference players in 2017: White, Kahler and Mendoza.
Click here for a photo gallery of tonight's match, courtesy of D3Photography.com.
Click here for Whitworth's post-game press conference, courtesy of the UTD Sports Information office.