At the halfway point of the conference season, Linfield is in third place with a 5-3 record. Coach Shane Kimura said this record comes after hard work and winning tough matches. He said he is pleased with where his team stands but also that he knows the road ahead is going to be tough.
“We have a winning record for the first half, so that is good,” he said. “[During] the second half of the season, we are going to be on the road more than we will be at home, which will be a good test for us.”
The final two games of the first half of the conference season took place Oct. 9 and 10. The first match was against the George Fox University Bruins. Linfield jumped ahead quickly, winning the first two games.
With two games under their belts, the ’Cats’ match resembled an Oct. 2 game against Whitworth in which Linfield won the opening two games and dropped the following three. But the ’Cats finished strong this time. They completed the three-game sweep with a 25-21 game three victory. It was the first time during the season that Linfield won a match in three straight games.
Junior defensive specialist Kelsey Franklin said that attitude was the key to finishing off the match.
“You can’t let them think that they have a chance to win,” she said. ”Each set you have to come back stronger or the other team will take the momentum.”
With its first sweep behind them, the team’s attention shifted to the Pacific Lutheran University Lutes, one of the top-ranked teams in the conference.
The Wildcats were slow out of the gate, losing the first match 25-15, but gave a strong response in the second game.
With the score tied at 22, Linfield reeled off three consecutive points to take the second game 25-22. Following the Linfield run, PLU hit its stride. They took the next two matches, 25-18 and 25-11, to seal the victory.
Kimura said that he believed the team’s offense was the key to winning the second game and losing the other three.
“In the second game, our ball control was better, and because of that, we hit better,” he said. “ In the games we lost, we didn’t hit the ball well.”
Now the team prepares for their second match against each of their NWC opponents. Freshman Kelsey Ludin said that these matches have a slightly different approach to them.
“We know their tendencies. There are no surprises so that changes things a little,” she said.
Kimura agreed, saying that there will be no surprises during the second round of matches. It is essential for the Wildcats to not beat themselves, he said.
“We know what we are going to see so that won’t be a surprise,” Kimura said. “For us, the key is take care of our side of the net. We just want to be better on our half of the net.”
As Linfield prepares for the second half of the season, both Ludin and Kimura say they understand that they have improvements to make.
“Overall, we just need to play more consistent,” Ludin said. “Our team has great chemistry, and we just need to keep building on that.”
Kimura said he is pleased with the defense so far but that the offense will be the key in the second half of the season.
“Defensively we have been solid,” he said. “On the opposite side, our hitting percentage is not very high, and we are working to get better at it.”
Linfield plays its next home match against
the Willamete University Bearcats at 7 p.m. on Oct. 15.
Jerry Young can be reached at email@example.com.