The 1981 Volleyball Team has the honor of being the first Linfield program in the post-Title IX era to compete for a national championship.
Coach Shane Kimura, then in his fifth season, teamed with assistant coaches J.C. Luoto and Brendan Akamu, and team manager Lynda Whitener, to guide the Wildcats to a national runner-up finish at the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women Division III Tournament. The 1981 tournament was the final one hosted by the AIAW before the governing body merged with the NCAA.
Competing in the Women’s Conference of Independent Colleges, the Wildcats compiled an 8-2 league record, finishing second among seven teams. Their only two losses came at the hands of regular-season champion Pacific University.
Moving on to postseason play, Linfield powered through the NCWSA Region 9 Tournament, posting a perfect 5-0 record to win the event and qualify for the national championship.
In the semifinal match, the ‘Cats exacted their revenge on Pacific, turning the two regular-season losses to the Boxers into a distant memory with a 3-1 victory that eliminated Pacific from postseason play. Linfield then topped Puget Sound 3-1 to win the tournament crown.
Kraus, a setter, was recognized as the tournament MVP, spreading around a team-high 131 assists while also racking up 14 kills, 11 service aces and seven blocks (one solo, six assisted). Allsop was also named to the NCWSA Region 9 All-Tournament Team after totaling 28 kills, 10 blocks (two solo, eight assisted) and a team-high 22 aces.
At the AIAW Tournament, Linfield finished second in “Pool 1,” defeating Gallaudet and Trinity but losing to La Verne. After receiving a bye for the first round of bracket play, the ‘Cats won three straight matches over Puget Sound, Elmhurst and Mt. St. Joseph to advance to the title match against La Verne.
Competing on its home court, La Verne defeated Linfield in straight sets 15-9, 15-12, 15-2.
Statistically speaking, Allsop and Kraus again led the ‘Cats at the national tournament. Over nine matches, Allsop racked up 55 kills and registered a .814 hitting percentage, committing just 22 errors. She also contributed 14 service aces. Kraus provided a team-high 110 assists while tallying 14 kills and 12 service aces. Both players were named to the AIAW Division III All-Tournament Team.
In addition to the numerous external accolades the Wildcats received throughout the year, the squad also presented its own awards at the end of the season. Kraus was selected as the team’s most valuable player, junior Joyce McKenzie was honored as rookie of the year, and senior Judi (Silbernagel) Boni was given the most improved award.
Other members of the national runner-up team included Jan (Wise) Barker, Suzie Bell, Jill (Pluim) Hill, Linda Johnson-Spraker and Phyllis (Bloch) Shelton.
The 1981 Linfield Volleyball Team finished the season with a 35 wins, a feat that has not been topped by any Wildcat squad since. Perhaps more importantly, the 1981 ‘Cats set a high bar for women’s athletics in the early years of the post Title IX-era, and undoubtedly inspired future generations of female athletes to uphold Linfield’s “tradition of excellence” as fervently as their male counterparts.