MCMINNVILLE, Ore. – Seeking their first Northwest Conference win of the 2013 season, the Wildcats were instead left on the losing end of a thrilling five-set match to Willamette inside Ted Wilson Gymnasium Friday night, 25-21, 23-25, 25-20, 15-10.
Tied at 9-9 in the final set, a long rally gave momentum to the Bearcats. Two kills later, Willamette (5-7, 1-2 NWC) had opened a three-point lead, and Linfield (4-6, 0-3 NWC) could only muster one more point before the visitors finished off the night with a 15-10 victory.
As most matches have been between the rival clubs in recent years, this one was another back-and-forth battle from the start.
Neither team could break away from the other in the first set until a Wildcat run, started by back-to-back Willamette errors, put Linfield up 20-13. The Bearcats came back with a rally of their own, notching the score at 20-20. Linfield ended run and eventually took the set on a right-handed kill from Kailana Ritte-Camara (Jr., Molokai, Hawaii).
Willamette responded, taking the second set by a score of 25-23 behind sophomore outside hitter Sarah Fincher, who had 13 kills on the night.
Down 4-5 to start the third frame, the Wildcats surged. Linfield scored four straight points and never looked back, holding on to the lead for the remainder of the set. Two successive aces with the score at 16-9 from libero Courtney Uyeda (Soph., Honolulu, Hawaii) put the set out of reach for the Bearcats.
Willamette took the fourth set with ease, dominating the Wildcats 25-8 and forcing a fifth set. The visitors hit a crisp .400 on 10 kills and zero errors, while Linfield accrued more mistakes (11) than successful attacks (8) for a match-low -.086 hitting percentage.
Linfield jumped out to a 3-0 lead to start the decisive frame, but Fincher and Carly Hargrave recorded two kills apiece as part of an 8-3 run that wrestled away the lead.
On the night, Sam Hammons (Fr., Estacada, Ore.) led the Wildcats with 13 kills, while Casie Gaza (Fr., Mililani, Hawaii) added 19 assists and Uyeda dug a game-high 22 balls.
The Bearcats’ Emily Compton assisted her teammates a game-high 42 times. Defensively, Lindsey Compton and Riley Fawcett accounted for 21 of Willamette’s 83 digs.
'CAT SCRATCH: The match was the first to go to five sets for the Wildcats this season...Gaza racked up a career-high five service aces...Linfield tallied 13 service aces to Willamette's five...Uyeda, Courtney Wanamaker (Jr., West Linn, Ore.) and Gaza all registered double-digit digs.
19 assists, 10 digs, 5 service aces
Director of Sports Information
McMinnville, OR 97128