WALLA WALLA — Whitman College chalked up its fourth consecutive Northwest Conference volleyball victory Friday night at Sherwood Center by shutting down George Fox University 25-20, 25-23, 25-23.
It was also the team’s second three-set victory in a row and enabled the Missionaries to move above the .500 mark in the conference standings at 7-6. The Whits were tied with the Bruins for fourth place in the league standings going into a Saturday night home match against last-place Lewis & Clark.
Perhaps most satisfying of all for first-year Whitman coach Matt Helm was that his team was able to exact a measure of revenge against one of three conference rivals who defeated the Missionaries in five sets earlier in the year.
“George Fox beat us 15-13 in the fifth set when faced them at their place,” Helm said, adding that Lewis & Clark did the same the following night in Portland and that Whitman also lost 15-13 in the fifth set of a home match against Pacific.
“Those were matches where we knew we had an opportunity to win and didn’t,” Helm said. “But losing those matches gave us motivation. We were highly motivated to play well against George Fox.”
Whitman plays its final match of the season Saturday at third-place Pacific. The Whits visit Linfield Friday of next week before taking on the Boxers in the season finale.
“We’ve talked since the beginning of the season about building a culture where people will understand that we are serious about volleyball at Whitman College,” Helm said after his team improved to 9-11 on the season. “And by finishing our season strong it helps our program as well as all of the other athletic programs at Whitman.”
And, Helm added, it’s a positive way for his four seniors — Olivia Nielson (Anchorage, Alaska), Courtney Brewer (Anchorage, Alaska), Rachel Shober (Monroe, Wash.) and Carrie Cecil (Dedham, Wash.) — to close out their Missionary careers.
“They haven’t had a lot of success and I’m happy to have them go out this way,” Helm said.
Brewer and Nielson were key contributors to Friday’s victory. Brewer had 10 kills and a team-high .421 hitting percentage plus four block assists. Nielson led Whitman’s potent blocking game with six block assists.
“We did a really good job of blocking,” Helm said. “Our middles (Nielson and Brewer) were strong as were Jillian Davis and Rachel Cline on the right side.”
Davis, a senior outside hitter from El Paso, Texas, led Whitman at the net with 14 kills and a .314 hitting percentage. She also had a team-high 14 digs and two block assists.
Cline, a junior setter from Seattle, had 35 assists, three kills, nine digs and a pair of block assists.
The Whits finished the match with 20 block assists. Sophomore Megan Bafus accounted for four of them and sophomore Jazmine Moledina chipped in with a pair.
Moledina and Bafus also registered four kills each and junior Becca Gotz scored a pair. Freshman Hannah Linsenmayer contributed seven digs and the team’s only serving ace.
“It was such a team effort,” Helm said.
George Fox’s Lucy Capron led everyone in kills with 19 and Erin Campbell added 14. Payton Schrum led the Bruins with 36 assists, Chelsea Wilson put up 14 digs and Jessie Vahalia, Kylee Anderson and Schrum chipped in with two digs each.