WALLA WALLA, Wash. – Kenzie Martinez posted a match-high 17 kills, Nicole Kelly added 12 more to go along with 14 digs, but it wasn’t enough as the Whitman College women’s volleyball team suffered a heartbreaking five-set loss to Willamette University on Friday night in Northwest Conference action at the Sherwood Center. Set scores were 19-2, 25-21, 10-25, 25-21, 15-10.
The match was the home opener for the Blues who were a set away from victory. They led 2-1 after a convincing set three win, but the Bearcats rallied to win the fourth and then deciding fifth set. Olivia Cadien led Willamette with 12 kills and Shyla Sato added a match-high 32 digs.
The Blues looked good in the early going of set one. Back-to-back kills from Christina Boxberger and Sydney London gave their team an early three-point lead. Later, three straight aces by Boxberger and a kill from Sophia Dominitz helped the Blues begin to pull away. Cadien kept the Bearcats (4-5, 3-0 NWC) in it, drilling a kill to cut the lead to 20-15. Kelly ended the set though with a kill to put the Blues (3-9, 1-3 NWC) up in the match.
The second set featured a tight contest with the Blues holding a slim lead until late in the set. With the score knotted at 17-17, Emma Porter’s kill and ace contributed to a 5-0 Willamette run as the Bearcats took control. The Blues weren’t done though and came within a point of the lead at 22-21 on the heels of a pair of Dominitz kills. The Bearcats captured the final three points to square the match at one apiece.
Whitman made sure the momentum did not carry into the third set. A pair of early Boxberger kills helped spark a start that saw the Blues open up a 12-4 lead. Dani Queja’s kill and block kept the Bearcats in it, but ultimately the Blues pulled away for the win as Boxeberger drilled a pair of kills to end the set and give her team a 2-1 lead in the match.
Unfortunately, Whitman could not sustain the momentum. The Blues rallied twice in set four but couldn’t get over the hump. The second time they erased a late three-point lead to tie the set, but the Bearcats returned the favor to go up 20-17.
The fifth set saw Willamette go up early and never lose the lead. Whitman rallied to make it a one-point game before the teams switched sides, but the Bearcats kept the Blues at bay and completed the five-set win.
The Blues hit the road again next weekend when they visit George Fox on Friday, Sept. 31 and Lewis & Clark the following day.