NEWBERG, Ore. - In a battle between two of the top blocking teams in the nation, the University of Puget Sound Loggers won a showdown for second place in the Northwest Conference women's volleyball chase with a 3-1 win (27-25, 25-22, 21-25, 25-22) over the George Fox University Bruins Friday night here at the Wheeler Sports Center's Miller Gym.
George Fox was ranked fourth in the NCAA Division III West Region and 15th nationally in blocks per set (2.31), while Puget Sound was ranked 20th in the AVCA national poll, sixth in the West, and 21st nationally in blocks (2.23). The Loggers collected 13 blocks in the match to five for the Bruins, a major factor in the visitors' win that thrust them into sole possession of the runner-up spot to NWC champion Pacific Lutheran University and into prime consideration for a possible at-large bid to the NCAA post-season tournament.
Both teams have one match remaining Saturday. George Fox (17-6, NWC 10-5) visits Willamette University and Puget Sound (17-6, NWC 11-4) goes to Linfield College, both tipping off at 7:00 p.m. Lewis & Clark College (14-10, NWC 10-5), which defeated Linfield 3-0 Friday night, is also in the mix and poses the possibility of a three-way tie for second with GFU and UPS, but the Pioneers would have to upset Pacific Lutheran Saturday to do so.
The opening set saw four early ties before the host Bruins moved ahead by as much as four points seven times in the middle of the game. Stephanie Kerr's kill made it 19-15 Bruins before the Loggers reeled off four points in a row, capped by a Natalie Monro winner to even it at 19-19. A kill by Brynn Blickenstaff moved the Loggers within a point of clinching at 24-22, only to have the Bruins rally for another tie on kills by Lyndsay Hovee and Kaitlyn Maddams. The teams traded points before Puget Sound notched the win on consecutive Bruin errors, one on a set and one on an attack.
George Fox jumped out to a 6-1 lead in the second set, sparked by a pair of kills by Eliza Pledger, but an 8-3 run Puget Sound run featuring three kills by Monro got the visitors back in the game at 9-9. After three more ties, the last at 14-14, the Loggers took the lead for good on a Blickenstaff kill, an attack error, and a block by Bre Boyce. Maddams had a kill and an ace to twice bring the Bruins within one at 21-20 and 23-22, but the Loggers secured the game on a Bruin set error and a winner by Blickenstaff.
The Bruins used a 5-0 run to take an early 7-5 lead in the third set, only to have the Loggers go on an 8-1 tear to forge ahead 12-8. The Bruins slowly climbed back into it and finally regained the lead for good at 18-17 on a kill by Sarah Crossfield. A set error and an attack error by UPS gave the Bruins a three-point lead of 20-17, but twice the Loggers closed back within a point. The Bruins closed the set with three straight points, however, on kills by Hovee and Ali Toedtemeier around a Logger hitting miscue.
The fourth set was tight throughout the first half before Puget Sound used a 4-0 run, including two more Monro kills, to take the lead for good at 14-11. The Loggers took a 20-15 lead on another Bruin hitting error, equaling the biggest lead either team had all night, before the Bruins twice came back within a point at 21-20 and 22-21. A kill by Boyce, a block by Monro and Kalli Kamphaus, and a match-ending kill by Sophie DeWitt offset one final George Fox kill by Hovee.
Hovee had 17 kills and Jennifer Panico 11 to lead the Bruins, who hit .129 for the match with 57 kills and 31 errors. Toedtemeier passed out 47 assists. Carley Johnson led the defense with 31 digs, Hovee added 25, and Panico made 23. Pledger had two solo blocks and two block assists.
Blickenstaff with 17 kills and Monro with 11 paced the Loggers, who hit .192 on 55 kills and 20 errors. Stephanie Harvey had 47 assists. Leigh Sumida made 27 digs, Juliette Witous 21, Kris Sumida 13, Harvey 12, and Blickenstaff 11. Kamphaus had seven block assists while Boyce had three solos and three assists.