SPOKANE, Wash. – The Whitworth University volleyball team is headed into a busy week of matches. The Pirates will play three times in five days, beginning with the final non-conference match of 2017 on Wednesday at Lewis-Clark State (6:00 pm) in Lewiston, Idaho. Whitworth hosts Lewis & Clark College on Friday (7:00 pm) and George Fox University on Saturday (5:00 pm) in a pair of Northwest Conference matches.
Watch the Whitworth volleyball schedule for live links to this week's matches.
The Pirates: Whitworth is now 12-8 overall and 9-3 in the conference after splitting with Whitman and Willamette. The Bucs saw their 11-match winning streak over Whitman come to an end, but rebounded to defeat Willamette on Saturday.
Whitworth fell behind by two sets at Whitman last Wednesday night and could not recover in a 25-21, 25-21, 21-25, 25-16 loss to the Blues. The Pirates hit .115 in the match while Whitman hit .209. Cassandra Mendoza had 13 kills and 12 digs for the Bucs, while Jessica Schmautz added 10 kills.
Whitworth looked like it might be suffering a hangover after dropping the first set at Willamette on Saturday night. But the Pirates rallied to win 21-25, 25-19, 25-15, 25-19. Emiko Kahler led Whitworth with 17 kills along with 16 kills and 18 digs from Mendoza. Corinne Bell had perhaps her best match as a Pirate with 14 kills (while hitting .462) and six block assists. Whitworth hit .228 and Willamette hit .168.
Breast Cancer Awareness: Friday night will be Breast Cancer Awareness Night in the Whitworth Fieldhouse. The Pirate players will wear pink to bring awareness to the fight against the disease and fans will have opportunities to donate money to the cause.
Senior Night: On Saturday Whitworth will recognize the volleyball senior class of 2018 prior to the start of the contest against George Fox. The seven-member class includes starters Corinne Bell (MB), Gracie Meiners (S), Cassandra Mendoza (OH) and Taylor Wicht (L), along with reserves Cara Crosby, Alexa Lindgren and Chloe Luedecker. This group was part of three consecutive Northwest Conference titles from 2014-2016 and has a cumulative record of 74-28 heading into the weekend.
We're Going Streaking: The Pirates put together a winning streak that reached seven in a row earlier this season. Going on a winning streak has become Old School for the Bucs under head coach Kati Bodecker. In 2016 the Pirates had separate streaks of eight and seven wins in a row. Whitworth won eight in a row in October of 2015 and had a ten-match winning streak during the 2014 season.
Mendoza Line: Cassandra Mendoza is Whitworth's top offensive option this season. Mendoza leads the team with an average of 3.35 kills per set, which ranks second in the NWC. She is also second in the league in total kills with 231.
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 sixth in the NWC in assists per set (4.80) and fourth in total digs (341).
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 3.02 kills per set overall (5th in the NWC), but 3.60 kills per set in NWC-only stats, which is second in the league. She earned her first NWC Offensive Player of the Week award of the year on Oct. 2 after wins at Lewis & Clark and George Fox.
Mining for Kills: Gracie Meiners has settled nicely into the role of starting setter. She now leads the NWC in assists per set (10.73). But in statistics from conference-only matches, she averages 11.44 assists per set, which leads the league by a much-wider margin.
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 State comes into Wednesday night's match 7-13 overall, 3-3 at the LCSC Activity Center. Members of the NAIA Frontier Conference, the Warriors are 2-7 in conference play. LCSC is looking to break a three-match losing streak. Junior MB Rachel Gregg leads the Warriors in kills (2.93 kps) and hits .208. Senior OH Natalie Batiste adds 2.45 kills and 2.73 digs per set. Whitworth and LCSC split a pair of matches in 2016, each winning on the others' home floor. The Pirates won 3-1 in Lewiston while the Warriors rallied for a 3-2 win in Spokane.
Lewis & Clark College comes into Friday's match with a 2-17 overall record and a 1-11 mark in the NWC. The Pioneers lost 3-0 at Pacific (Ore.) last Friday before a 3-1 loss at Pacific Lutheran on Saturday. Junior MB Kortney Meyer leads her team with 2.88 kills per set. Junior opposite hitter Emma Contreras adds 2.52 kills and 3.02 digs per set. Whitworth defeated Lewis & Clark 3-0 in Portland on September 29th behind Emiko Kahler's 14 kills (.565 hitting percentage) and 10 kills from Madison Douglas (.692). The Pirates have won seven in a row against the Pioneers.
George Fox University (8-8 overall, 7-5 NWC) has won five conference matches in a row heading into Friday's contest at Whitman College. The Bruins won 3-0 at Puget Sound last Friday, then defeated Linfield 3-1 at home on Saturday. Junior OH Danyle Dupray is third in the NWC in kills per set (3.31) and hits .214. Senior OH Delaney Cruz adds 2.44 kills per set. Whitworth swept George Fox in Newberg on September 30th, but had to work hard to do so with rallies in the second and third frames. Emiko Kahler had a dozen kills to lead the Pirates to their 10th straight win over the Bruins.
Coming Up: Whitworth will finish the 2017 season with matches at Pacific (Ore) and Linfield next Friday and Saturday.