McMINNVILLE, Ore. – Twin towers Madisyn Leenstra and Carly Hargrave drilled home nine kills each to help Willamette leapfrog Linfield in the Northwest Conference standings with a 3-0 sweep of the Wildcats Wednesday night at Ted Wilson Gymnasium.
Both teams entered the match tied for sixth place with identical a 3-5 conference records. Willamette (7-11) dropped Linfield (8-10) into seventh with seven matches remaining in the regular season.
Hargrave, a 6-foot-1 middle blocker, hit .409 at the net while 6-foot Leenstra hit .176. Emily Compton recorded 24 assists and 10 digs while Nicole Mertens scooped up 20 digs.
Linfield was led by the 11 kills and nine digs of Kailana Ritte-Camara (Sr., Molokai, Hawaii). Setter Audrey Frazier passed out 24 assists along with seven digs. Samantha Lau dug 26 balls and contributed a pair of service aces.
In the first set, both teams came out firing, each trying to pull away from the other. Linfield went up by four points early, but the Bearcats wouldn't go down easily, tying the frame at 10. After a short Willamette run, it was the Wildcats turn to rally and soon the match was knotted at 15. Eventually it was the Bearcats who prevailed, knocking off Linfield 25-21 on a spike that barely nicked the back line.
The Bearcats held the upper hand for the majority of the second set, and though not by much, it was enough to hold off the Wildcats. Despite frequent Linfield surges, Willamette kept steady pressure on the hosts and captured the second set 25-22. Linfield headed into the break trailing 2-0 in sets.
With their backs against the wall, the Wildcats came out with a bang in the third set, taking an early 4-0 lead. The deficit eventually grew to six points, but the Bearcats rallied to pull within one. Linfield began to pull away again, but Willamette fought back, eventually taking a one-point lead. The rallies were back-and-forth for the remainder of the set, but unfortunately for Linfield, the Bearcats decided to shift their play into another gear. Linfield rallied for three points while the Bearcats were at 24, but the dagger finally came in a long service by the Wildcats. Willamette took the set 25-21, completing the sweep.
‘CAT SCRATCH: The Wildcats need five wins in their remaining seven matches to clinch the program’s first winning season since 2008 . . . with 26 digs against the Bearcats, Lau surpassed 1,700 career digs…already the Wildcats’ career leader, the senior libero has amassed 1,710 digs across four seasons.
AHEAD: Linfield is back at Ted Wilson Gym Saturday night for a 7 o’clock contest with Puget Sound. The following weekend, the ‘Cats embark on the eastern Washington swing with matches Oct. 21 at Whitworth and Oct. 22 at Whitman.