After wins against Pacific and Willamette universities, the Linfield volleyball team is in a three-way tie for first place along with the University of Puget Sound and Lewis & Clark College.
Both matches were close, and the Wildcats were forced to play to five games in each. In the fifth games, the matches were up for grabs.
Head coach Shane Kimura said he has prepared his teams for these types of matches.
“I think it helps that we played some tough teams in preseason, so the kids know that we can compete at that level,” he said. “They worked hard in the gym, and it is nice to start 2-0 in conference.”
After their win against Pacific on Sept. 15, the Wildcats traveled to Salem for a tough road game against the Willamette Bearcats on Sept. 17.
Kimura was quick to acknowledge that the ’Cats weren’t at their best.
“We did not play very good ball the first game,” he said. “We pretty much got hammered.”
Kimura said he and the rest of the team knew that they were not out of a game yet.
Linfield regrouped and rallied. It won the following two games; the second one was close, 25-21.
In the third game, the young team found its stride, dominating 25-12.
Junior Samantha Lau, Linfield’s returning all-conference libero, said she believes that being
mentally tough is key when falling behind early.
“It takes a while to get started. In our huddles, you hear everyone saying, ‘We have to stay strong; step it up,’” she said.
Willamette fought back and won the fourth game, 25-23, setting the stage for a fifth game to decide the winner.
Kimura said that his players need to avoid simple mistakes when games come down to just a few points.
“We didn’t give up easy points in the fifth and I think that made a big difference in us coming back,” he said.
In a back-and-forth fifth game, the Wildcats came out on top with a 16-14 victory.
With this 2-0 start in conference, the next five matches are crucial in the ’Cats’ quest for a conference title. All five are played at home, where the team will have the support of the Wildcat crowd.
Lau said that having this type of home stretch gives them a large confidence boost.
“We love playing at home, we definitely feed off the crowd,” she said. “All of the games are gonna be tough this year, so it is gonna help to be at home.”
The next two matches Linfield will be played Sept. 24 and 25 against Puget Sound and Lewis & Clark. Both will present challenges for Linfield.
“UPS is a nationally ranked team that came in second in conference last season,” Lau said. “Lewis & Clark is really tall. We just have to go out there and play our game.”
With the next five games scheduled at home, there are plenty of
opportunities to come out and cheer on the team. Games will be Sept. 24 and 25, and Oct. 1, 2 and 9, all at 7 p.m. in the Ted Wilson Gymnasium.
Jerry Young can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.