The Linfield volleyball team dropped to fourth place in the NWC with a record of 6-4 — three games out from first place. This record comes after beating Pacific University on Oct. 13, and losing to Willamette University on Oct. 15.
On the road against Pacific, the Wildcats knew they were in for a tough match. Coach Shane Kimura said he was impressed with how his team handled the energized Pacific crowd.
“The players responded well to the crowd. I don’t think we handled it very well at the start,” he said. “After a while, we got a handle on it, and we stopped hearing the crowd.”
With the score tied at 13 in the first game, the Wildcats scored the next five points to pull ahead 18-13. Linfield never looked back and won the game 25-22.
Junior defensive specialist Kelsey Franklin pointed out that while the crowd wasn’t on its side, the ’Cats still played off the energy.
“We definitely brought our own energy and that was sustained by feeding off of the crowd,” Franklin said.
In the second game, Pacific pulled ahead late and squeaked out a tough win 25-20. It seemed the momentum was shifting toward the Boxers, and as the third game neared an end, Pacific held a 23-21 lead over the Wildcats.
However, the team responded in true Wildcat fashion by scoring the final four points of the game to win 25-23.
The fourth game played out similarly to the third. The teams battled back and forth, and Pacific pulled ahead late in the game with a 24-23 lead. It needed one more point to force a fifth game.
The Wildcats respondedagain by scoring three straight points to seal the victory at 26-24.
Kimura said it was great to see the team pull out close games on the road.
“The ability for us to maintain focus, especially at the end of games three and four, was impressive,” he said. “We were able to come back, stay in it and then win those close games.”
With an impressive road victory in the books, Linfield traveled back home for a match against Willamette.
In the first game, the teams went back and forth with gaining control. With the score tied at 21, Willamette pulled and won the game 25-22.
Linfield never recovered. It lost the second game 25-14 and dropped the third 25-20.
Both Franklin and Kimura said that they had chances to win this match but never took advantage of them.
“We had leads in every game, and we weren’t able to sustain them,” Kimura said. “We also got caught in some rotations where we gave up a lot of points. And Willamette played well.”
Franklin said much of the match came down to not playing hard enough.
“We were playing timid; we always need to play to win,” she said.
Linfield’s next four games are on the road. The first two are against the University of Puget Sound and Lewis & Clark College.
Kimura said the key for him was to make sure the team learns from past matches and moves on.
“For us, we focus on what we need to do to get better,” he said. “Every time we come into the gym, hopefully, we will be a little bit better both mentally and physically.”
The Wildcats return to Linfield Nov. 5 for their final home match of the season.
Jerry Young can be reached at email@example.com.