Volleyball enters conference competition
By PETER MELLING
After a tough preseason, the women’s volleyball team has entered conference play with a hot streak, winning their first two games against Northwest Conference opponents. Under Coach Stacie Matz, they play a tough schedule against strong competition, like last year’s NWC Co-Champion Whitworth University and Willamette University. How has the team handled these first few games, and how will they get ready for the stretch run?
Following a 4-4 preseason, the Pioneers have handled themselves well in their first few conference games, topping their first four opponents. As of September 26, they are in a three-way tie for first place in the NWC with Willamette University and Whitworth University.
The biggest of these wins came on September 25, against the defending champion, the Pacific Lutheran University Lutes. Even though the Pios lost the first set 25-13, the team rallied to win the next three sets, each by a score of 25-23. Alexe Navarro (’17) lead the team with 22 digs and Julia Somers (’19) finished with 13 kills.
Somers followed up this performance with another strong game, recording 12 kills and three aces on the road against the Linfield College Wildcats on September 26. Also in this game, Casey Myszkowski (’19) lead the team in blocks, with three.
With the addition of eight first-year athletes (including Somers and Myszkowski), the Pios may have gotten the infusion of new blood that could put them over the top. Their 7-4 record (4-0) in conference could be the start of a great improvement over last year’s squad.The 2014 team went 11-14 and 5-11 in conference, and saw four seniors graduate. With these new athletes and the collective experience of the veteran players, the squad might be able to make a push for the NWC Championship
The schedule presents several key challenges. The Pios do not have a homestand longer than two games, and face a five-game road trip that will take them through October 9 to October 23. These road matches include trips to Whitworth (the currently undefeated defending co-champion) and second-place Pacific Lutheran. This trip will greatly test the strength of this young team, and could prove their status as a contender in the NWC.
The volleyball team will play their next home game this Saturday, against Puget Sound at 7:00 PM.