SALEM, Ore. – Outscoring Linfield 9-1 midway through deciding set, the Willamette Bearcats snatched an exciting five-act drama Friday night inside Cone Field House.
The Bearcats’ victory, coming by scores of 25-8, 18-25, 25-20, 24-26, and 15-11, dealt the Wildcats their eighth consecutive loss and enabled Willamette to vault past Linfield in the Northwest Conference standings.
Madisyn Leenstra pounded 22 kills, Danica Reed had 16 and Carly Hargrave totaled a dozen more to pace Willamette (5-11, 3-6 NWC).
Linfield (7-10, 2-7 NWC) struggled with its offensive efficiency, converting just .086 at the net. Willamette hit .286 while also digging more balls (82 to Linfield’s 73) and notching more blocks (13 to 8).
Kailana Ritte-Camara (Sr., Molokai, Hawaii) was the Wildcats’ primary threat, swatting 17 kills and digging 13 balls. Setter Audrey Frazier totaled 39 aces, 13 digs and accounted for four of the Linfield’s 10 services aces on the night. Leimomi Hookano turned in eight kills and Victoria Thompson (Sr., Newberg, Ore.) chipped in with six more while adding five block assists. Libero Courtney Wanamaker (Sr., West Linn, Ore.) had a hand in 20 digs.
The Wildcats spun their wheels in the first set, as the Bearcats scored the first four points, eventually building their advantage to 10-2. WU scored the final eight points of the frame to take command of the match from the start.
Linfield turned the tables in Set 2, jumping in front 13-5 on the way to a wire-to-wire victory.
Willamette pulled away from a 15-all tie in the third stanza, getting three kills from Leenstra down the stretch to grab a 2-1 lead in the match.
With the score tied at 24 in the fourth set, Ritte-Camara was the difference. The sophomore outside hitter recorded consecutive kills to force a deciding set.
After taking a 5-2 lead in the rubber set, the Wildcats watched as the Bearcats scored seven consecutive, including six with Elisa Ahern serving. Willamette produced nine of the next 10 points to wrestle control. Kills by Leenstra and Hargrave tilted the set and match in Willamette’s favor, 15-11.
AHEAD: The Wildcats visit Wheeler Sports Center Saturday night to battle the George Fox Bruins at 7 p.m.