SPOKANE, Wash. – Visiting Pacific Lutheran took over sole possession of first place in the Northwest Conference volleyball standings by rallying from two sets behind to defeat Whitworth 20-25, 18-25, 25-14, 25-17, 15-9 on Friday night in the Whitworth Fieldhouse.
Chloe Epker scored 18 points for the Lutes, who won their seventh straight match to improve to 14-3 overall and 8-1 in the NWC. Emiko Kahler had a match-high 21 points for the Pirates, who had their seven-match winning streak come to an end and fell to 10-7, 7-2.
Whitworth appeared in control of the contest after winning the first two sets. Cassandra Mendoza had six kills as the Bucs pulled away late to win the opening frame 25-20. Kahler had seven kills in the second set and Whitworth hit .270 with 16 kills as a team to win 25-18.
But the fortunes shifted after the break.
"We knew they would raise their level of play in the third set, because PLU is better than they showed early on," said Whitworth head coach Kati Bodecker. "We didn't respond like we needed to. They passed better, which allowed them to stay in system. We didn't pass as well and couldn't finish as well offensively. We went to some long rallies that didn't go our way."
PLU hit .414 in the third set to begin the comeback with a 25-14 victory. Epker had four kills and Mackenzie Harris had four kills.
The Lutes never trailed in the fourth set. After Whitworth rallied from a 6-1 deficit to tie the frame 10-10, PLU went on a 7-2 run to retake control.
The Lutes carried the momentum into the final set, opening a 13-4 lead. Whitworth closed to within 13-8 to force a PLU timeout, but PLU withstood the rally and won the match on a final kill by Harris.
The Lutes hit .234 as a team and finished with 13 team blocks. Epker totaled 14 kills, four block assists and two aces for her 18 points. Harris added 10 kills and four solo blocks while totaling 15 points. Kiana Calles dished 47 assists while Caylie Shiramizu dug 20 balls.
After hitting .200 through the first two sets, Whitworth hit only .070 over the final three frames to finish the match with a .130 hitting percentage. Kahler had 18 kills and Mendoza to lead their team offensively. Kahler had 16 digs and Mendoza added 15 digs as each posted a double-double. Kahler also led the Pirates with three service aces. Gracie Meiners handed out 47 assists.
PLU took a major step toward winning the NWC title. By sweeping the season series with Whitworth, the Lutes now hold the head-to-head tiebreaker.
The Pirates will try to bounce back on Saturday night when they take on Puget Sound at 5:00 pm in the Fieldhouse.