SPOKANE, Wash. – The Whitworth Pirates are off to their best start in volleyball since the 2008 season. The Pirates will need every ounce of that momentum as they head to Atlanta, Georgia to participate in the Emory University National Tournament this coming weekend. The Emory National Tournament includes several nationally-ranked programs and teams coming off of national tournament participation.
Whitworth will take on 25th-ranked Berry (Ga.) and Transylvania (Ky.) on Friday, September 7th. The Pirates will play Otterbein (Ohio), host (#5) Emory and Oglethorpe (Ga.) on Saturday (Sept. 8th).
Watch the Whitworth volleyball schedule for live links to this weekend's matches.
The Pirates: Whitworth went 4-0 at the Oregon Trail Classic at George Fox University last weekend. It is the first time the Pirates opened with a perfect weekend since 2008, when they won the NYU Invitational in New York City with a 4-0 record.
Whitworth opened the season with a 25-23, 21-25, 25-22, 25-19 win over UC Santa Cruz. The Pirates hit .233 as a team, led by Emiko Kahler's 17 kills and 13 kills and three block assists from Lauren Budde. Erin White dished 43 assists in her return to the lineup, while Addy Woolery came off the bench for 16 digs.
The Bucs defeated Elmhurst 25-19, 25-19, 27-29, 25-19 in Friday's second match. Whitworth appeared on the way to a three-set sweep before Elmhurst rallied to force a fourth stanza. White had another big match, posting 49 assists and 13 digs. Jessica Schmautz led the offense with 18 kills, the only Pirate player to reach double figures. Woolery came up with 26 digs.
Whitworth rolled to a 25-14, 25-21, 25-15 win over New Rochelle (N.Y.) in Saturday's early match. The Pirates hit .255 as a team while holding the Blue Angels to a team hitting percentage of -0.10. Jessica Schmautz had 14 kills and Madison Douglas added 10 kills to lead the attack. Laina Damon led the defense with 13 digs.
The Pirates closed out their travels on the Oregon Trail with a 25-10, 25-12, 25-22 win over Johnson & Wales (Colo.) in a match that allowed every player on the roster to see extended action. Whitworth hit .283 as a team, the best hitting percentage of the weekend. Schmautz led the team with 16 kills and only one error in 27 attempts for a .556 hitting percentage. Damon dug 17 JWU attacks.
Big Weekend for Schmautz: Jessica Schmautz was named to the Oregon Trail Classic All-Tournament team for her performance of the weekend. She averaged 4.0 kills per set while hitting .311 over the four matches. She added 2.64 digs per set and totaled six assists and 4.0 blocks.
Back to the Top?: Whitworth won three consecutive NWC crowns from 2014 through 2016 before falling to second place in 2017. The Pirates are hoping to return to the top of the standings in 2018, but they must overcome defending champion PLU and a rapidly improving team from Pacific (Ore.). Puget Sound is also a traditional contender for the title.
The Leader: Emiko Kahler has established herself as a dominant player in the NWC over her first two seasons. She was the 2016 NWC Freshman of the Year and earned a second straight first team All-NWC honor in 2017. She has averaged 3.04 kills per set over her first two seasons, as well as 3.07 digs per set. She is well on her way to 1,000 kills in her career with 551 and counting.
Erin's Back: Erin White led Whitworth to the 2016 Northwest Conference championship by leading the league in assists per set (10.22) while averaging 1.1 points per set. She received first team All-NWC recognition. White sat out 2017 to focus on her nursing major. She is a senior academically, but a junior in eligibility.
A Budding Star: Lauren Budde established herself as one of the more dangerous and athletic weapons in the NWC last season, averaging 2.36 and 0.70 blocks per set. Capable of hitting over many blockers, Budde received honorable mention All-NWC consideration.
The Coach: Kati Bodecker, 91-43 heading into her sixth season guiding the Pirates, is a three-time Northwest Conference Coach of the Year after leading Whitworth to three straight NWC titles from 2014 through 2016. Bodecker also directed 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: Berry College, from Mount Berry, Georgia, is 2-1 so far in 2018. The Vikings, ranked 25th in the AVCA Division III preseason poll, are coming off a 30-7 record last fall. Berry won the Southern Athletic Association title and advanced to the round of 16 in the NCAA Division III tournament, losing in the regional final at Emory. Junior OH Emily Hancock and junior MB Carsen VanCampen, a pair of AVCA All-Region honorees in 2017, are back to lead the team.
Transylvania University (Lexington, Ky.) is coming off a 20-10 record in 2017. The Pioneers are 0-3 so far in 2018, but all three losses were in four sets to tough national foes, including Berry and 10th-ranked Washington University (Mo.). Junior setter Hannah Talkers was the 2017 Heartland Collegiate Athletics Conference (HCAC) Offensive Player of the Year.
The Otterbein Cardinals, from Westerville, Ohio, are coming off the best year in team history. Otterbein finished 30-4, won the Ohio Athletic Conference crown and reached the second round of the NCAA Division III tournament. The Cardinals, among others receiving votes in the preseason AVCA poll, are currently 3-1 and their only loss of the season is to 4th-ranked Wittenberg. Senior OH Hadley Sterett was a 3rd Team AVCA All-American in 2017.
Host Emory University is ranked fifth in the preseason poll. The Eagles are 2-1 with the only loss coming to 13th-ranked Illinois Wesleyan. Emory finished 30-7 last fall and reached the NCAA Division III quarterfinals. Junior OH Sarah Carr was a first team AVCA All-American in 2017, while junior libero Elyse Thompson earned third team All-America honors.
Oglethorpe, also from Atlanta, went 4-21 last season and 2-12 in the SAA. The Stormy Petrels hope for a much better finish this fall, thanks to a senior-laden roster. However, sophomore OH Jacoby Simms will lead the team offensively this fall. She was a second team All-SAA choice as a freshman.
Coming Up: Whitworth will open the Northwest Conference schedule at home on September 14th and 15th with matches against Willamette and Lewis & Clark.