SALEM, Ore. -- An 8-1 lead in the third set potentially was the turning point that the Lewis & Clark Pioneers were looking for on Friday night at Sparks Center. After falling behind the Willamette Bearcats by two sets, the Pios failed to complete the rally in a 25-13, 25-16, 25-20 defeat.
Kate Kimbro had two blocks and three kills in the third set, and paired with kills from Kendall Malone, who finished with a team-high seven kills, the Pios built a seven-point edge on the serves of Michelle McGinn and Ka'anelaokapu'uwai Pakaki-Pias. Willamette (6-13, 5-5 NWC) rallied back and avenged a sweeping win by Lewis & Clark last month.
The game marked the start of the second half of the Northwest Conference schedule. The Pioneers (7-10, 3-6 NWC) have lost their last four matches.
Limited to less than 17 points in both of the first two sets, the Pioneers rushed out to a 5-1 lead in the third set. After Willamette took a timeout, Lewis & Clark scored three more points before Willamette earned a sideout. The Bearcats scored the next seven points on Brooke Lohuis' serve and tied the match at eight.
Trailing 17-13, the Pios took their own timeout and then scored on kills by Makena Ohlmaier and Kimbro. Despite another streak by Willamette, the Pioneers nearly turned the tide when Jenna Timmerman scored her only kill of the game in the middle of points by Kimbro and Olmaier, which moved Lewis & Clark to within two, 22-20. Willamette ultimately took the match. Dani Queja led the Bearcats with four kills in the final set.
Along with Kimbro, who hit .375, Kelsey Parker had a higher-volume night and started the match. She played the first two sets and landed five kills. Parker served for three points and had a kill in the opening set and helped the Pios close to within 10-6 after they had fell behind by four points. Willamette used an 8-0 run to separate itself and win the first set by 12.
- McGinn had 20 assists, her lowest output since sharing 18 in a straight-sets loss to Pacific on Sept. 21
- She was also limited to just one kill for the first time this season, although she attempted her third-fewest attacks of the season (6)
- Blythe Ballesteros started as libeo, her second start of the season, and had a game-high 16 digs, the second most of the season for the Pios' lone senior
- Kimbro played in her most sets (2) in the last nine matches and hit the best of her year so far (.375)
- Pakaki-Pias and Parker had a team-high three kills in the second set, and Parker added two digs after bringing up four in the opening set
- Willamette landed five aces in the third and totaled nine in the game, the fifth time in the last six matches that the Pioneers have allowed eight or more aces
- Natalie Klotz led the Bearcats with 13 kills, while Shyla Sato and Queja had a team-high 15 digs each
- Ohlmaier matched Kimbro with two blocks including one solo
Lewis & Clark hosts first-place Pacific on Saturday in Portland.