Volleyball Hosts UPS, PLU in Key NWC Weekend

Volleyball Hosts UPS, PLU in Key NWC Weekend

SPOKANE, Wash. – The Whitworth University volleyball team will host the University of Puget Sound and Pacific Lutheran University in a pair of important Northwest Conference matches this weekend.  Puget Sound visits on Friday at 7:00 pm while PLU comes to the Fieldhouse on Saturday at 6:00 pm.  Whitworth and PLU are tied atop the league standings at 4-0, while UPS comes in at 3-1.   

Watch the Whitworth volleyball schedule for live links to this weekend's matches.

The Pirates:  Whitworth went 2-1 last week with three matches in five days.  But most important, the Pirates won both of their NWC contests and improved to 10-4 overall and 4-0 in the conference.

Whitworth lost 25-16, 25-16, 25-22 at NAIA-member Lewis-Clark State College last Wednesday in Lewiston, Idaho.  The Bucs struggled through the first two sets before finding their footing in the third.  The tall, talented Warriors hit .382 as a team.  Jessica Schmautz had 13 kills and 5 digs for Whitworth.  She was the only Pirate player in double figures. 

The Pirates had to rally from behind to win in five sets at George Fox on Friday night.  Whitworth trailed 2-1 in sets before forcing the final stanza.  The Pirates then trailed 10-8 and 13-12 in the last set before scoring the final three points to win 23-25, 25-17, 21-25, 25-17, 15-13.  Schmautz had 19 kills, ten digs and she was in on four blocks (one solo, three assists).  Emiko Kahaler added a dozen kills.  Erin White finished with 45 assists, 13 digs, five kills and five service aces.  Addy Woolery led all players with 21 digs.  Whitworth hit .255 as a team to pick up its 12th in a row over the Bruins.

The Pirates put together their best all-around performance of the season on Saturday at Pacific University.  Whitworth hit .261 and finished with 14.0 team blocks (4 solo, 20 block assists) in a 25-19, 25-14, 25-18 road win over a good Boxer team.  Iris Tikhonov was in on eight of the 14 team blocks (2 solo, 6 assists) to lead the defense.  Woolery dug up 15 of the balls that got through the block.  Schmautz had 16 kills and hit .429 on offense.  Lauren Budde added nine kills and Kahler had eight.  White dished 33 assists.  The Pirates earned their sixth straight win over Pacific.

Schmautz honored again:  Jessica Schmautz is the NWC Offensive Player of the Week in volleyball for the second time this season.  In three matches last week, she averaged 4.36 kills and hit .313. She added 2.09 digs per set, three services aces and 0.73 blocks per set. In all, she averaged 5.1 points per set.  She was previously the NWC Offensive Player of the Week on September 3rd after leading the Pirates to a season-opening 4-0 weekend.

NWC Leaders:  Only three weeks into the season and Whitworth has made its mark atop the Northwest Conference statistics in several key categories.  The Pirates lead the league in overall kills per set (12.66), assists per set (11.86), and points per set (16.3).  In stats from only NWC matches, Whitworth is first in team hitting percentage (.216), second in blocks per set (2.33) and third in service aces per set (2.00). 

Individually, Schmautz tops the NWC in kills per set (3.86) and in total kills (192), while White leads in assists per set (10.30) and ranks seventh in service aces per set (0.44).  Budde is sixth in the league in kills per set (2.72).  Woolery ranks sixth in the NWC in digs per set (4.18) and Tikhonov is seventh in blocks per set (0.76). 

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 666 and counting.  Despite battling persistent injuries in 2018, Kahler is averaging 2.35 kills per set.

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 and she once again leads the NWC in assists.

A Budding Star:  Lauren Budde became 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.  In 2018 Budde currently ranks sixth in the NWC in kills per set (2.72) and she has the highest hitting percentage among Whitworth's top three attackers (.233).

Sharp Schmautz:  Jessica Schmautz has become a force to be reckoned with in the NWC this season.  She currently leads the league in kills per set (3.84), total kills (144) and total attacks (386).  She also tops the conference in points per set (4.4) and total points (218).  Schmautz was selected as the first NWC Offensive Player of the Week in 2018 for her season-opening weekend at the Oregon Trail Classic.

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:  Puget Sound has bounced back from a rough start in non-conference play to make itself a contender in league play.  The Loggers are 6-6 overall and 3-1 in the NWC heading into Friday night's match.  A very good defensive team, Puget Sound is second in the league in blocks per set (1.83) and third in digs per set (15.91).  Senior middle hitter Marcelle Rutherford is fourth in the NWC in blocks per set (0.94).  Sophomore OH Allie Reviglio leads the team in kills per set (2.14).  Whitworth swept Puget Sound 3-0 in both matchups last fall and has won the last three meetings between the foes. 

Pacific Lutheran University goes into Friday night's match at Whitman 11-1 overall and 4-0 in the NWC.  The Lutes, ranked 9th in the latest AVCA Division III top-25 poll, have only lost to second-ranked, unbeaten Colorado College.  PLU leads the NWC in both blocks per set (2.70) and in service aces per set (2.15).  Senior MB Mackenzie Harris and junior MB Danielle Skibiel rank first and fourth, respectively, in the NWC in blocks.  Harris leads the league, and ranks second in all of NCAA DIII, with 1.41 blocks per set.  She also hits .307 and averages 2.10 kills per set.  Senior OH Chloe Epker adds 2.05 kills, 3.44 digs and 0.62 aces per set.  She is second in the NWC in aces.  The Lutes handed Whitworth a pair of losses last season, 3-0 in Parkland and 3-2 in Spokane.  Those two wins for PLU ended a five-match losing streak to the Pirates. 

Coming Up:  Whitworth will host Whitman next Wednesday (Oct. 5) before heading to Linfield College on Friday (Oct. 5) to close out the first half of NWC play.