Volleyball Views Path to NWC Title

Volleyball Views Path to NWC Title

SPOKANE, Wash. – The Whitworth University Pirates head into the final week of the 2018 Northwest Conference volleyball schedule controlling their own destiny toward at least a share of the league title and, perhaps more importantly, the NWC's automatic bid to the NCAA Division III tournament.  To assure themselves of a playoff spot, the Pirates will have to find positive results against Whitman College (Wednesday, 6:00 pm) and Linfield College (Saturday, 6:00 pm). 

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

The Pirates:  Whitworth (18-7 overall, 12-2 NWC) split last weekend in Tacoma, winning at Puget Sound on Friday night before falling at Pacific Lutheran on Saturday.  The loss to the Lutes dropped Whitworth back into a first place tie with PLU, but the Pirates did enough in the match to gain an important potential tiebreaker.

Whitworth hit .266 and pounded 41 kills to pick up a 25-20, 26-24, 25-22 win at Puget Sound on Friday night.  The Pirates gained a measure of revenge against the Loggers, who beat the Bucs in five sets during the teams' first matchup last month in Spokane.  Jessica Schmautz had 18 kills and hit .429 to lead Whitworth.  She added ten digs.  Lauren Budde and Emiko Kahler finished with eight and seven kills, respectively.  Erin White totaled 39 assists while Iris Tikhonov was in on six blocks (two solo, four assists). 

The Pirates could not sustain the momentum of a first-set victory in Saturday night's 20-25, 25-20, 25-18, 25-16 loss at Pacific Lutheran.  Whitworth's hitting percentage dropped to .110 as the Bucs committed a season-high 30 hitting errors, partly due to 13 team blocks by PLU.  Schmautz finished with 14 kills, Kahler had 12 and Budde 11.  Addy Woolery came up with 23 digs and Tikhonov had seven block assists to lead the defense.  Erin White posted a double-double with 38 assists and 13 digs.

Potential Tiebreakers:  Whitworth and PLU head into the final week of the volleyball schedule tied atop the Northwest Conference standings with a 12-2 record.  With two matches to play, Pacific (Ore.) (10-4) could still potentially tie for the title, but Whitworth and PLU would each have to lose twice.  Assuming the Lutes and Pirates each win twice, the first tiebreaker is head-to-head match results – which is tied 1-1.  The second tiebreaker is head-to-head set results, where Whitworth holds a 4-3 edge in the two matches, thanks to the Bucs' September sweep of the Lutes.  Both teams would still be considered co-champions, but Whitworth would claim the NWC's automatic bid to the NCAA Division III tournament.

NWC Leaders:  Nearing the end of the season, Whitworth continues to stand atop the Northwest Conference statistics in some key categories.  The Pirates lead the league in overall kills per set (13.28 – 25th in NCAA DIII out of 430 schools), assists per set (12.49 – 20th in DIII), hitting percentage (.210) and points per set (16.7).

Individually, Schmautz tops the NWC in kills per set (4.26 – 12th in DIII) and in total kills (383 – 31st), while White leads in assists per set (10.93 – 9th in DIII).  Budde is sixth in the league in kills per set (2.77) and fifth in hitting percentage (.273).  Woolery ranks seventh in the NWC in digs per set (4.26) and fifth in total digs (358).  Tikhonov is seventh in blocks per set (0.80).

Sharp Schmautz:  Jessica Schmautz is making a strong bid for NWC Player of the Year.  She currently leads the league in kills per set (4.26), total kills (383) and total attacks (926) by wide margins.  She also tops the conference in points per set (4.7) and total points (423.5).  The NWC has selected Schmautz as its Offensive Player of the Week five times in 2018.

The Leader:  Emiko Kahler 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 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 777 and counting.  Despite battling injuries early in 2018, Kahler is averaging 2.54 kills per set.

Erin's Back:  Erin White is back at it.  She is leading the league in assists per set (10.93) and has increased her offensive production to 1.2 points per set.  She led Whitworth to the 2016 Northwest Conference championship by leading the league in assists per set (10.22) and 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 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 among NWC leaders in kills per set (2.77) and she has the highest hitting percentage among Whitworth's top three attackers (.273).

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:  Whitman College is 8-14 overall and 4-10 in the NWC.  The Blues fell twice in Tacoma last weekend, 3-0 at PLU on Friday night and 3-1 at Puget Sound on Saturday.  A strong defensive team, Whitman ranks second in the NWC in blocks per set and they are third in digs per set.  Senior OH Codie Conching does everything well.  She averages 2.89 kills, 3.76 digs and 0.42 service aces per set.  Senior MB Brooke Randall ranks among NWC leaders in blocks per set (1.01), while sophomore libero Claire McCarthy ranks with the leaders in digs per set (4.53).  Whitworth defeated Whitman 25-16, 25-22, 27-25 at home on October 3rdEmiko Kahler led the way with 15 kills. 

Linfield College heads into a Friday night match at Whitman 6-16 overall and 1-13 in the NWC.  The Wildcats are hoping to break a six-match losing streak to finish 2018 on a positive note.  Linfield lost 3-0 at home to George Fox last Friday and fell 3-0 at Pacific (Ore.) on Saturday.   Sophomore OH Regan Dean averages 2.23 kills per set and 2.43 digs per set with 25 service aces.  Whitworth won 25-21, 25-20, 25-21 at Linfield on October 5thLauren Budde had 16 kills and hit .560 in the match.  Jessica Schmautz added 15 kills and hit .520.

Coming Up:  If Whitworth is able to finish with two wins this week, the Pirates will find out when and where they will open the NCAA Division III tournament when the field is announced on Monday morning.