Grant Lucas – Sports editor. After narrowly escaping a loss against Whitman College on Oct. 16, the Linfield volleyball team lost to Whitworth University in four sets — 25-23, 23-25, 14-25 and 24-26 — on Oct. 17.
The Wildcats hold a 7-10 overall and 4-6 Northwest Conference record in which they are tied for fourth place.
“On [Oct. 16], we focused on eliminating errors and keeping pressure on the other team,” sophomore outside hitter Tara Hill said. “We played to win instead of playing timid.”
Linfield came out strong against Whitman in game one. After building a 20-10 lead, the Wildcats allowed Whitman a five-point run. Linfield, however, finished with four straight points to take the first game.
The ’Cats brought the same momentum into game two, surging to a 10-3 lead. Whitman battled the rest of the way, eventually tallying a 9-4 run that cut the Wildcat lead down to one point. Linfield won the game two points later after a Whitman service error.
The Missionaries built a 4-0 lead in the third game, the biggest either team would see. After exchanging points throughout the game, Whitman used a 4-0 run to force a fourth game.
In it, Whitman jumped to a 19-13 advantage, only to see the Wildcats storm back to tie the game at 21. Wildcat miscues, however, led to a Whitman victory in the fourth game.
Hill picked up the team in the deciding set with a clutch kill to give Linfield a 13-10 lead. One point later, sophomore server Emily Carpenter won the match with her fifth ace of the night.
Hill finished the night with 17 kills, while senior middle back Emily Vuylsteke and freshman outside hitter Kate Leavitt tallied a dozen kills each. Sophomore outside hitter Samantha Lau contributed a season-high 39 digs.
Head coach Shane Kimura said that although the Wildcats were inconsistent, they played well toward the end of the match to pull out a win.
In a heated contest Oct. 17, Whitworth put away the Wildcats in four sets under the leadership of sophomore outside hitter Kaimi Rocha.
Although the Pirates led by six points early on, Linfield was relentless, eventually tying the score at 20 on a Leavitt ace. Whitworth scored the next two points, but it was the Wildcats who recorded the game-one victory off three Pirate errors.
In game two, Linfield held a 20-17 edge, but Whitworth battled back, tying the game at 20. The Pirates then capitalized on several Linfield errors to earn the win.
Whitworth broke out in game three, using a 17-6 run to take the game.
The Wildcats answered in the fourth game, building a 14-6 lead. Although Whitworth fought back, the ’Cats held a 24-23 edge. After a couple Wildcat miscues gave the Pirates the lead, however, Whitworth sophomore middle back Ka’ipo Rocha and junior outside hitter Brynn DeLong gave Whitworth the match win with a block.
Hill led the Wildcats again, tallying 14 kills, while Lau finished with a match-high 26 digs.
“[This week] we will be focusing on taking care of our side of the net and communicating to each other on the court,” Kimura said. “We need to cut down on physical errors and make the other team earn its points.
Linfield returns to Ted Wilson Gymnasium to host Pacific University on Oct. 23. The ’Cats will then travel to Tacoma, Wash., to face Pacific Lutheran University on Oct. 24.