Volleyball Eyes Pikes Peak Challenge

Volleyball Eyes Pikes Peak Challenge

SPOKANE, Wash. – The Whitworth volleyball team will play its final non-conference weekend of the fall when the Pirates travel to Colorado Springs to compete in the Pikes Peak Challenge hosted by Colorado College.  Whitworth (5-2) will take on Birmingham Southern College, Transylvania University and the host school, all of whom are off to impressive starts this season.

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

The Pirates:  Whitworth suffered its second loss of the season when the Bucs fell 25-16, 23-25, 25-22, 25-22 at NAIA-member Lewis-Clark State on Friday evening.  The Warriors used their superior length to the tune of 11 team blocks.  Emiko Kahler led the Pirates with 16 kills, while Abby Wolverton added nine.  Kiana Vandaele had 29 digs.

Whitworth rebounded to defeat LCSC in three close sets at Whitman College on Saturday, 25-22, 27-25, 27-25.  The Pirates limited the Warriors to only two team blocks in the second match.  Kahler posted a double-double with 11 kills and 11 digs, while Elisa Anderson added six kills and hit .312.  It was Whitworth's first win over LCSC since 2016.

The Bucs defeated Whitman 25-15, 25-21, 25-15 later on Saturday.  Kahler had another big match with 14 kills and three service aces.  Iris Tikhonov was in on five kills and three block assists.  The match does not count toward Northwest Conference standings.

The Leader:  Emiko Kahler appears to be back in form in 2019.  She currently ranks second in the NWC in kills per set (3.56).  She was the 2016 NWC Freshman of the Year and earned a second straight first team All-NWC honor in 2017.  Kahler was honorable mention All-NWC in 2018 after starting slowly due to injuries.  She is well on her way to 1,000 kills in her career with 886 and counting. 

The Coach:  Kati Bodecker, 110-50 heading into her seventh 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:  Birmingham Southern is 6-0 this season and currently receiving votes in the AVCA Division III Top-25 poll.  The Panthers went 25-7 overall and 12-2 in the Southern Athletic Association in 2018, earning an at-large bid to the NCAA Division III tournament.  They return five starters, four of whom earned All-SAA recognition last fall, including senior MB Julia Denby.  Whitworth and BSC have never played in volleyball.

Transylvania University is 6-2 in 2019 and is also receiving votes in the AVCA DIII poll.  The Pioneers went 15-10 overall last year and earned the regular season title in the Heartland Collegiate Athletics Conference with an 8-1 record.  Transy fell to Rose-Hulman in the HCAC tournament final.  The Pioneers return senior setter Hannah Talker and senior RS Jordan Horne, the last two HCAC Offensive Players of the Year.  Whitworth defeated Transylvania 3-1 last September in a tournament at Emory University.

Colorado College is 7-1 and ranked seventh in this week's DIII coaches poll.  The Tigers are coming off a 32-3 season, a Southern Collegiate Athletics Conference and an appearance in the NCAA Division III tournament.  They bring back five starters, plus the libero, from 2018.  Reigning SCAC Player of the Year Marguerite Spaething (Sr., MB) was a second team All-American in 2018.  Senior setter Lizzy Counts was a third team honoree.  Whitworth last played Colorado College on September 9, 2011, losing 3-0 to the Tigers in Colorado Springs.

Coming Up:  Whitworth will open Northwest Conference play with a match at 24th-ranked Pacific Lutheran on Friday, September 20th, followed by a match at Puget Sound on Saturday at 7:00 pm.