Whitman pushes defending NWC champ Lutes to five games in volleyball loss

The young Missionary team doesn't give up in the five-set loss.

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WALLA WALLA - Rookie Jillian Davis swatted 21 kills while sophomores Courtney Brewer and Carrie Cecil split two dozen more, but defending Northwest Conference champion Pacific Lutheran held off Whitman College in five games (25-13, 22-25, 25-16, 19-25, 15-8) in Saturday night volleyball action in Tacoma.

The Lutes finished the weekend at 2-0 in the NWC and 8-3 on the season.

The young Missionaries, opening the conference season on the road against last fall's top two teams, dropped to 0-2 and 3-7.

After Whitman won game four to even the match, Pacific Lutheran bolted to a 6-1 lead in the deciding fifth set. Davis smacked two kills and served two aces to help the Missionaries pull even at 6-6.

But the Lutes pulled away one final time, winning eight of the next nine points to coast home to victory.

Whitman got off to a good start in game one, moving in front 8-2 on the strength of two kills by Maddy Bell and services aces by Rachel Cline, Hannah Holloran and Olivia Nielson.

After a Becca Gotz kill made it 9-3, Pacific Lutheran took off on a tear, winning 22 of the next 26 points to claim the opening game by a wide margin.

With the Lutes on top 14-13 in game two, Brewer and Davis pounded two kills apiece to fuel a 7-1 scoring spree that staked the Missionaries to a 20-15 advantage. Another kill by Davis finished off a game-two victory that saw Whitman drill 18 kills and hit .432 as a team.

The Missionaries held the momentum to start game three, taking their largest lead at 12-8 when Davis collected her third kill of the set. But the Lutes started to sizzle again, winning 17 of the game's final 21 points.

After the two sides battled on even terms at the outset of game four, Whitman took control with an 8-3 spurt that produced a 21-15 lead. A Davis service ace and kills by Brewer and Cecil capped another stellar offensive effort by the Missionaries, who combined for 18 kills and a .471 hitting percentage in the fourth.

For the match, Davis hit .294 in collecting her season-high 21 kills. Brewer's 12 kills came courtesy of a .321 hitting percentage, and Bell was solid with eight kills.

Cline handed out 50 assists and added 11 digs. Gotz and Holloran led the defense with 14 and 11 digs.

Kelsie Moore and Beth Hanna sparked the Lutes with 18 and 15 kills, respectively.

Whitman returns home to host Whitworth at 6 p.m. Wednesday and George Fox at 7 p.m. Friday in two more NWC matches.

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