SPOKANE, Wash. – The Whitworth University volleyball team hopes to stay on a roll when the Pirates go on the road to Oregon this week for a pair of Northwest Conference matches. Whitworth plays at Lewis & Clark on Friday (7:00 pm), then heads over to George Fox on Saturday (3:00 pm).
Watch the Whitworth volleyball schedule for live links to this week's matches.
The Pirates: Whitworth heads into the weekend 6-6 overall and 3-1 in the Northwest Conference. The Bucs have won three matches in a row, all by 3-0 scores.
Whitworth's first home match of the 2017 season was a 25-15, 25-17, 25-11 win over Whitman last Wednesday night. The Pirates posted a season-high team hitting percentage of .315, led by Madison Douglas who had seven kills and no errors in 15 attacks for a hitting percentage of .467. She was also in on five blocks (two solo, three assists). Emiko Kahler led the team with 11 kills, while Cassandra Mendoza had nine and Lauren Budde finished with seven. Gracie Meiners dished 39 assists and Taylor Wicht had 20 digs. Whitworth extended its winning streak over Whitman to 11 matches in a row.
The Pirates added a 25-10, 25-22, 25-22 win over Willamette on Friday night. Whitworth had another strong night attacking as a team (.278). Mendoza pounded 13 kills and hit .346. Kahler added nine kills and Budde finished with eight. Both Budde and Corinne Bell were in on four blocks. Meiners had 39 assists for the second match in a row, while Wicht totaled 17 digs.
Wicht Recognized: Taylor Wicht was selected as the Northwest Conference Volleyball Defensive Student-Athlete of the Week for her performance in two Pirate victories last week. She averaged 6.17 digs per set, leading the Whitworth defensive effort.
Chasing History: Whitworth is aiming for a fourth straight NWC title in volleyball, something the Pirates have never done in the sport. Whitworth's current streak of three in a row is the longest in school history and the Pirates have been picked first in the NWC's 2017 preseason coaches poll. Lewis & Clark holds the longest volleyball championship streak in league history. The Pioneers won or shared six straight crowns from 1984 – 1989. Pacific Lutheran (2006-09) is the last NWC school to win four volleyball championships in a row.
Mendoza Line: Cassandra is clearly Whitworth's top offensive option this season. Mendoza leads the team with an average of 3.42 kills per set, which ranks second in the NWC. She is also second in the league in total kills with 137.
Mendoza has been a Second Team All-NWC selection twice - in 2015 and 2016. The senior led the team, and ranked third in the NWC, last season in kills per set (3.14).
Wicht on Fire: Taylor Wicht established herself as Whitworth's starting libero in 2016 and she continues to excel this year. Wicht ranks fourth in the NWC in assists per set (4.95) and fourth in total digs (208).
Last year she led the team, and ranked seventh in the NWC, in digs per set (4.42), despite the fact that she got fewer opportunities than other liberos in the NWC. She also had 35 service aces last year, by far the most among NWC liberos.
Nothing "Meek" About Her: Emiko Kahler made her first year at Whitworth one to remember, earning NWC Freshman of the Year recognition. She averaged 3.00 kills and 3.09 digs per set to rank second among Pirate players in both categories. She was named NWC Offensive Player of the Week three times. This season she is averaging 2.53 kills per set.
Mining for Kills: Gracie Meiners has settled nicely into the roll of starting setter. She now ranks second in the NWC in assists per set (10.31). But as a 5-10, left-handed setter, Meiners is also an offensive threat on her own. She averaging 1.42 kills per set and is hitting .353 as an attacker.
Impressive Debuts: Madison Douglas and Gracie Meiners are Whitworth's two true new starters this season and both played very well in the season-opening weekend in Oregon. Douglas had the second-highest kill total for the Pirates over the weekend with 36 and she led the squad in hitting percentage (.281). Meiners finished with 156 assists, an average of 10.4 assists per set. She added 30 digs.
The Coach: Kati Bodecker, 76-33 heading into her fifth year, is a three-time Northwest Conference Coach of the Year after leading Whitworth to three straight NWC titles from 2014 through 2016. Bodecker has also guided the Pirates to three consecutive appearances in the NCAA Division III tournament. In 2013 she coached the Bucs to a 15-13 record, becoming the first Whitworth volleyball coach to post a winning record in her first season since Margaret Campbell in 1990. She previously had been the head coach at Priest River High School, leading the Spartans to five state tournament appearances, including a runner-up finish in 2012. She was a four-year starter at the University of Idaho, helping lead the Vandals to back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances as a sophomore and junior.
The Opponents: Lewis & Clark College is 1-10 overall and 0-4 in the Northwest Conference. But the Pioneers showed that they are dangerous in last Friday's five-set loss to league-leading Pacific (Ore.). L&C also fell 3-0 at home to Pacific Lutheran on Saturday. Junior MB Kortney Meyer leads the team with an average of 2.93 kills per set. Junior rightside Emma Contreras adds 2.52 kills, 3.02 digs and 0.38 service aces per set. Whitworth defeated Lewis & Clark in three sets twice in 2016. The Pirates have won their last six matches against the Pioneers.
George Fox University is 3-4 overall and 2-2 in the NWC heading into a match on Friday night against Whitman. Last weekend the Bruins lost 3-0 at home to Puget Sound but bounced back to win 3-1 at Linfield on Saturday. Junior OH Danyle Dupray ranks third in the NWC in kills per set (3.36) and adds 3.40 digs per set. Setter Madison Ross ranks second in the conference in service aces per set (0.63). The Bruins average nearly two aces per set as a team (1.76). Whitworth has won the last nine matches against George Fox and swept the Bruins twice in 2016.
Coming Up: Whitworth will host Pacific (Ore.) and Linfield on October 6th and 7th to close out the first half of the Northwest Conference schedule.