WALLA WALLA — The Whitman College volleyball team got major contributions from its newcomers and enjoyed being home for the first time this season as the Missionaries shut out Walla Walla University in three sets Sunday night at Sherwood Athletic Center.
The Missionaries featured many of their first-year players as coach Matt Helm wanted to rest some of his starters after they played four matches in two days at the Puget Sound Premier Invitational.
In addition, he wanted to give his new players their first taste of collegiate volleyball as they did not make the Tacoma trip due to mandatory new student activities.
“I thought it was a perfect opportunity to get our freshmens’ feet wet.” said Helm. “It was our first home match; the crowd was great. We wanted to put them in a situation where they would be playing in front of their peers in their first game, and see how they responded. I thought they did an excellent job.”
First-years outside hitter Shae Kanakaole and opposite hitter Natalia Zea had 11 and five kills, respectively.
Newcomer Alex Braverman had five digs from her outside hitter position.
Setter Taylor Aschenbrenner chipped in with a team-leading 16 assists.
The Wolves were led by Courtney Zaro, who had six kills.
In addition to strong outside hitting, Whitman also served effectively, totaling 13 serving aces — three each for outside hitter Franny Gardner and libero Hannah Linsenmayer, which led the team.
“Our strategy was to play our game and serve tough,” said Helm. “We are going to have to serve well throughout the year if we are going to have success. Serving well takes the other team out of their system and sets up our defense.”
In each set, the Missionaries took 10-3 leads. The closest the Wolves could get was a 14-10 margin midway through the second set, but Whitman responded with a 6-0 run to take a 20-10 advantage, and control of the set.
Whitman, after playing 5 matches in three days, takes a short rest before heading to Spokane to play in the Whitworth Classic this Friday and Saturday. The Missionaries tackle Whitworth at 10 a.m. and then St. Scholastica at 2:30 p.m. on the opening day.