SPOKANE, Wash. -- It was not the season the Lewis & Clark Pioneers and head coach Stacie Matz-Gordon expected in terms of the Northwest Conference standings, as the year came to a close for the Pios on Saturday night in a 25-18, 25-16, 25-14 loss to the Whitworth Pirates at Whitworth Fieldhouse.
With the defeat, the Pioneers ended the season with nine losses in their last 10 matches, a 5-18 overall record and a 4-12 NWC mark to follow a fourth-place finish in the conference a year ago.
Still, Matz-Gordon saw continuous improvement from her team's core, made up mostly of underclassmen, saying Friday that she has seen "growth" in the team and the program. 16 of the team's 18 members are scheduled to return next season.
The two that won't, seniors Alexe Navarro and Bridgette Henningsen, played in their final matches for the Pioneers on Saturday. Navarro, who won NWC Libero of the Year during her junior season, had 11 digs to finalize her current school career record at 1,768. Henningsen played in all three sets against Whitworth, her second-straight match doing so.
Whitworth, which secured the NWC championship and an automatic bid to the NCAA Division III Championship tournament, landed 11 more kills than the Pios and outhit Lewis & Clark, .244-.047. The Pioneers didn't hold a lead past their second point in any set.
Julia Somers, an All-NWC Second-Team selection in 2015, had her streak of seven-consecutive double-doubles ended. She landed nine kills and brought up six digs. For the season, Somers ranked fourth in the conference in kills per set. Rebecca Lee had a .333 hitting percentage on six attempts and three kills. Mikayla Lopez and Sam Yorke combined for 18 assists. All are sophomores except Lee, who is a freshman.
More of the remaining sophomore class were big-time contributors for the Pios throughout the season. Kortney Meyer finished the year in the NWC's top 11 in blocks per set. Emma Contreras and Casey Myszkowski were in the team's top five in kills per set, with Myszkowski second on the team in total blocks. Annika San Nicolas played the third-most sets of any of the defensive specialists on the team.
The only juniors on Lewis & Clark's roster, Bailee Cragun and Anneka Banda, joined the team this year as transfers. Cragun finished fourth on the team in kills per set and was one of seven Pios to play in every set this season. The Pioneers had five freshmen on the roster this season: Victoria Hernandez, Karli Uwaine, Riley Kulfan, Tyra Kong and Riley Moeder. Hernandez was the team's primary libero while Navarro recovered from a spring injury and played in 69 sets.
Other Northwest Conference Scores - Saturday
Pacific Lutheran 3, Pacific 2
Linfield 3, George Fox 0
Willamette 3, Puget Sound 2