WALLA WALLA — Coach Matt Helm saw flashes of strong play in the second set Friday night at Sherwood Center that he hopes to see on a more consistent basis from his Whitman College women’s volleyball team going forward.
The Missionaries, after dropping the first set to nationally No. 13-ranked University of Puget Sound 25-22, regrouped in the second set of the Northwest Conference battle and rolled the Loggers 25-21.
But the Missionaries couldn’t sustain the momentum and UPS rebounded to win the next two sets — 25-18, 25-22 — and the match between the NCAA Division III foes.
“I actually thought we competed really well,” Helm said. “I thought we showed the type of toughness that we haven’t seen in a while. It’s something we’ve been working on in practice, competing for every point with a lot of great effort, which was great.”
The service game was where Helm though his team missed an opportunity for a better outcome.
“We made a few too many errors in service and service receive, and that could have been the difference,” Helm said. “We had nine service errors and 11 service-receive errors. That’s 20 points, and you can’t give a good team like UPS 20 points and expect to win.”
UPS also held an 11-5 advantage in service aces as the Loggers improved to 13-4 overall and 7-2 in conference, where they trail only No. 14 Pacific Lutheran University in the NWC standings.
Pacific Lutheran invades Sherwood Center Saturday while the Loggers travel north to take on Whitworth.
Friday’s defeat dropped Whitman’s record to 3-6 in conference play, good for a share of fifth place with Willamette, and to 5-11 on the year.
Junior Jillian Davis led the Missionaries in kills Friday night with 17, and she also contributed eight digs and one service ace. Senior Courtney Brewer was also strong at the net for Whitman with 14 kills and four blocks.
Junior setter Rachel Cline came up with 33 assists and added four kills, one ace and one block. Freshman Hannah Linsenmayer led the way with 23 digs to go along with one assist and one ace. Senior Olivia Nielson was the team’s blocks leader with six, and she also contributed three digs, two kills and an ace.
Helm had special praise for Linsenmayer, his libero, and for sophomore opposite Megan Bafus. Bafus had seven kills, five blocks and three digs on her stat line.
“Hannah played some great defense for us,” Helm said. “And Megan, coming in on the right side, played well, swung the ball well and was very much in control.”