WALLA WALLA - A Carrie Cecil kill and Anna Conrad service ace vaulted Whitman College to a 21-19 game-five victory and 3-2 match triumph in Saturday morning's opening battle of the Whitman Volleyball Invitational in the Sherwood Center and set the tone for Missionaries advancing to Sunday's championship match.
It was the season-opening match for both Northwest Conference schools.
After Whitman won game one 25-23, Puget Sound bounced back to take the next two by the same 25-19 score. The Missionaries then posted a 25-19 win of their own in game four to even the match and force a deciding fifth set.
Whitman took an early 7-4 lead in the fifth but the Loggers pulled even at 9-9. Neither side led by more than a point the rest of the way.
Needing to win by two points, the Missionaries had match points at 15-14 and 16-15. Puget Sound staved off defeat in both cases and moved ahead 17-16, only to see the host squad pocket the next two points for a third match point at 18-17.
Puget Sound's Brynn Blickenstaff, who pounded a match-high 23 kills, knocked down her last two points to forge the final two ties of the match at 19-19 and 23-23.
That's when Cecil converted an assist from first-year Whitman setter Rachel Cline, setting the stage for Conrad, a first-year sophomore, to toss the Missionaries over the top with her one and only service ace of the match.
Sophomore Courtney Brewer paced a balanced Whitman offense with 13 kills while first-year teammate Jillian Davis added 13 finishing strikes and 20 digs.
Cecil finished with nine kills. Sophomore Olivia Nielson added eight kills and four block assists. Cline collected 42 assists.
Puget Sound, which finished second in the NWC a year ago, entered Saturday's match with a No. 25 preseason national ranking.
Natalie Monroe added eight kills to the Logger offense. Erika Greene posted 50 assists and 11 digs, and Juliette Witrous scooped 21 digs.
Puget Sound finished with nine service aces, but the Loggers were guilty of 18 service errors. Whitman had seven aces against just six errors.
With Carrie Cecil and Jillian Davis combining for 25 kills and Courtney Brewer adding 20 digs and nine kills, the Whitman College women's volleyball team shot past Menlo College in four games (25-18, 25-23, 22-25, 25-16) Saturday evening to advance to the title match of the Whitman Invitational taking place in Sherwood Center.
Both Whitman and Pacific Lutheran finished Saturday with 2-0 tournament records and will meet at noon today.
Regardless of who wins and loses, the same two squads will meet again at 5 p.m. for the tourney title.
Menlo and Puget Sound, 0-2 in the tournament after Saturday's matches, meet at 9 a.m. today. Again, regardless of the outcome, the same two clubs locked into playing a second time - at 3 p.m. - for third and fourth places.
Cecil, a 6-foot sophomore, led the Whitman attack against Menlo with 13 kills, hitting an even .300, and three service aces.
Davis, a first-year outside hitter, slammed 12 kills and collected 17 digs. Brewer, a sophomore middle blocker, was good for nine kills, 20 digs, two solo blocks and three block assists.
Sophomore Olivia Nielson and first-year teammate Maddy Bell combined for nine kills, four solo blocks and six block assists.
Taylor Aschenbrenner, one of Whitman's two first-year setters, handed out 42 assists.
Stephanie Monderine led Menlo with 17 kills and nine digs. Menlo also got 19 digs from Shelby Goldman and 43 assists from Stephanie Wertz.