FOREST GROVE, Ore. — One night after one of their most disappointing matches of the season, the Whitman College Missionaries ended the 2012 campaign with an exclamation point.
Playing on an emotional level seldom equalled during the season, Whitman dismantled Pacific University 25-18, 25-15, 25-18 to nail down fourth place in the final Northwest Conference standings with a 9-7 record.
The Whits needed Saturday’s victory to ensure sole ownership of fourth place after Friday’s 30-28, 26-24, 25-22 loss at Linfield, a defeat that denied them a shot at a share of third place.
“Oh, man, it was Jekyll and Hyde,” Whitman coach Matt Helm said of the difference in his team’s play from Friday to Saturday. “We were a totally different team coming out. We really played well, and I was really pleased.
“I think this one ranks right up there with some of the other wins we’ve had this season,” he added. “We played with a lot of emotion, similar to our senior match at home. I think they really wanted to finish the season strong, especially coming off such a disappointing match at Linfield.”
Friday’s loss to the Wildcats snapped a five-game Whitman winning streak, but Saturday’s victory here boosted the Missionaries’ record to 6-2 over the second round of conference games.
“I think that tells you that mentally and physically our players bought into the program,” the first-year coach said. “It took us awhile to get to know each other, for me to know the players and for them to know me as a coach. Kind of a newlywed period.
“But the chemistry started to form, and in the second half of the season we started to believe in ourselves and we beat a lot of the teams in the conference.”
Against the Boxers, the Missionaries hit at a .259 clip, led by junior Jilian Davis, who recorded a .412 hitting percentage and led the Whits at the net with 14 kills. Davis also contributed five digs, one block assist and one service ace.
Olivia Nielson, one of Whitman’s two senior middle blockers from Anchorage, Alaska, had six block assists and two stuff blocks for a total of eight blocks. She also scored five kills, contributed two digs and one service ace.
Brewer, the other senior middle, landed seven kills, two digs and one block assist.
Whitman finished its first season under Helm with an 11-12 record, its highest win total since 2007 when the Whits were 13-11 overall and 9-7 in the NWC.