NEWBERG, Ore. – That blasted fourth set continues to stump the Wildcats. Linfield has yet to pick up a win in the fourth frame this season, and this time it cost them a close 25-22, 24-26, 25-21, 27-25 decision to George Fox inside Wheeler Sports Center Saturday night.
The Bruins (4-6, 2-2 NWC) notched their first victory in two seasons against their Northwest Conference and Yamhill County rivals, who dropped their second straight contest. The ‘Cats slipped to 7-4 on the year, also 2-2 in league play.
Kailana Ritte-Camara (Jr., Molokai, Hawaii) did all she could to keep the visitors in the mix, smacking a match-high 15 kills to go along with 14 digs and a service ace.
But overall, Linfield had no answer for the George Fox front line, which stuffed 14 attacks on the night, or the three-pronged offensive firepower of Tiffany Burk, Cassie Irwin and Erin Campbell. The three Bruins combined for 36 kills at a .201 clip.
The Wildcats were rolling early in the opening set, building their biggest lead of the night with an 18-12 advantage. But errors soon began to pile up. Linfield was practically giving points away as George Fox claimed 13 of the final 17 points to steal the first set, 25-22.
Linfield spun a different tale in the second frame, staging a late-set comeback rather than a collapse to tie the match at one win apiece. Ritte-Camara paced the offense, recording kills on three of the Wildcats’ final five points, but it was the arms of Victoria Thompson (Jr., Newberg, Ore.) and Shayli Coppock (Sr., Temecula, Calif) that ended the set with a block.
After the break, the Bruins scored the first four points and never gave up the lead while cruising, relatively speaking, to a third-set win. Linfield closed to the gap to one point at five different occasions, but never tipped the scales in their favor.
George Fox was most efficient in the decisive fourth set, tallying 16 kills against just six errors, but the Wildcats hung tough. With the teams locked in a 20-20 tie, Linfield scored the next two points on a Kelsey Ludin (Sr., Bozeman, Mont.) ace and a Ritte-Camara kill. But that was the last time the ‘Cats held the lead.
Linfield pushed the Bruins past match point, but Campbell notched three kills in the late stages of the set to make sure her team ended up on the positive side of the scoresheet.
Campbell finished the night with 12 kills. Teammates Burk and Irwin contributed 14 and 11, respectively. Payton Shrum dished out a match-high 43 assists while Chelsea Wilson’s 34 digs led all players.
Ritte-Camara was the only Wildcat with double-digit kills, but Leimomi Hookano added eight more and Coppock and Ludin each finished with seven. Audrey Frazier (Jr., Albany, Ore.) spread around 23 assists.
COMING UP: The Wildcats have a busy week, traveling to Pacific Wednesday evening before hosting back-to-back nationally ranked opponents Friday and Saturday nights. First up is 16th-ranked Colorado College in a nonconference tilt, followed by 10th-ranked NWC foe Puget Sound. All matches begin at 7 p.m.
Seven kills on 25 swings
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