McMINNVILLE, ORE. – Fueled by the roars of a raucous, near-capacity crowd at Ted Wilson Gymnasium, Linfield’s volleyball team took it to undefeated Occidental, defeating the 23rd-ranked Tigers 25-22, 16-25, 34-32, 15-25, 15-12 Sunday afternoon.
The Wildcats (2-0) thwarted an attempt by the Tigers (3-1) to steamroll through the Northwest Conference; Occidental had already defeated George Fox, Pacific and Willamette, with all but one victory coming in three sets. Linfield also handed the visitors their first loss to a NWC opponent since September of 2009.
Leimomi Hookano and Kailana Ritte-Camara (Jr., Molokai, Hawaii) each registered double-digit kills to pace the Wildcats in their home opener. Hookano’s 16 kills were a career-high, while Ritte-Camara added 15.
In a tight opening set, Linfield opened up an 11-8 advantage, forcing an Occidental timeout. A Tiger kill by Kasey Rose cut the lead to two, but the ‘Cats pushed it back to 14-9. The visitors rallied late, spouting off eight straight points to go up 20-17, but Linfield responded with a 7-2 to seal the deal, capped off with an ace by Hookano.
Occidental’s Alyssa Mort posted six kills of her career-high 21 kills to open play.
The Wildcats could not ride momentum from the first set into the second, as two drastically different teams took the court. A powerful and collected Occidental squad opened up a spread as wide as 13 points, compared to the ‘Cats, who appeared scattered and saw their attacking percentage take a significant dive, from .122 to .015.
Linfield finally pulled it together toward the end, avoiding set point nine times, but an attacking error finally brought the home team down, 25-16.
A barnburner of a third set featured 17 ties and stretched the final score nine points beyond the traditional 25. Occidental held a four-point advantage late, but another end-of-set rally by the Linfield and several Tiger attacking errors tied the set at 24-24.
To the crowd’s delight and anguish, the teams proceeded to trade kills and errors, each struggling to string together two successful attacks. Linfield finally ended things on an emphatic kill from Hookano, for a final score of 34-32.
The Wildcat defense came alive in the third set, registering four blocks after totaling zero over the first two sets. Occidental’s AVCA All-American Logan Boyer-Hayse was on fire, racking up 11 kills.
With their backs against the wall, the Tigers dominated the fourth set, more than doubling up Linfield in kills (14-6) en route to the easy 25-15 victory. Boyer-Hayse continued to add to her match-high total, tallying eight kills as Oxy registered a match-high .270 attack percentage.
Linfield, meanwhile, had its offense statistically zeroed out as its six kills were matched by an equal number of errors.
In the decisive fifth set, the 'Cats opened up three-point leads at 3-0 and 7-4, but could not pull away from the Tigers. Defense won out, as Victoria Thompson (Jr., Newberg, Ore.) assisted on back-to-back blocks, including match point.
Back-row defensive responsibilities were primarily handled by starting libero Courtney Wanamaker (Jr., West Linn, Ore.), who totaled a team-high 28 digs, but a total of five Wildcats recorded double-digit digs. Audrey Frazier (Jr., Albany, Ore.) had 18, to go along with a match-high 44 assists.
Madyson Cassidy dug the ball a match-high 54 times for the visitors. Boyer-Hayse finished with 27 kills while Mort had 21.
COMING UP: Linfield has a quick turnaround, traveling to Eugene Monday afternoon to face Northwest Christian. Match time is set for 4 p.m.
Career-high 16 kills spark offense
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