PORTLAND, Ore. -- The Lewis & Clark Pioneers were dominant in the first set and recovered from a 2-1 deficit to win the final two games in an upset win over the Northwest Conference champion Whitworth Pirates on Saturday at Pamplin Sports Center. The victory is the first for the Pios over Whitworth since 2013.
The 25-14, 22-25, 20-25, 25-22, 17-15 win by the Pios gave Whitworth only its second loss to a NWC team this season. Lewis & Clark's 11-point win in the opening set was the fewest points scored by the Pirates in a game since Whitworth lost 25-13 against Pacific Lutheran in September.
Lewis & Clark recognized its lone senior Blythe Ballesteros before the game in the final match of her Pioneers career, which she closed out with a career-most 27 digs.
Down 2-1 in the match, but leading 16-11 in the fourth set, Kelsey Parker served for three aces that bumped the Pios ahead 20-12. The cushion was helpful as Whitworth rallied to score six of the next seven points, and eventually, the Pirates closed to within one, 23-22. Back-to-back errors by the Pirates sent the match to a fifth set.
Makena Ohlmaier hit .207 with nine kills, and Parker matched her career high with 12. Those two played pivotal roles in the fifth set. Parker served and Ohlmaier put down a kill to give the Pios a 7-6 lead, and after the teams switched sides, Parker scored another ace, one of her career-high five in the match. Leading 14-11, Whitworth tied the match at 14 before Ka'anelaokapu'uwai Pakaki-Pias scored one of her team-high 13 kills. After another tie, Ashley Kane was called in to serve for the Pioneers, and off an attack error by Whitworth, the Pios sealed the win.
"I'm on cloud nine," Ohlmaier said. "That was our team. I kept telling them, 'this is our team, our gym, our season and our senior,' and we played like we had nothing to lose."
"We lost that second game, but we said okay and picked it back up," Parker said. "I played for Blythe and so did everyone else. We wanted to make it memorable for her. She finds impossible balls. She'll sacrifice it all."
Ballesteros proved it with her 27-dig performance, the second most by any Pioneers student-athlete in a match this season. As a team, the Pios' 113 digs are their most in a single game this season.
Lewis & Clark was stellar defensively at the net, too. Their 13 blocks were a season best including five solo blocks. Emma Ehlers had nine total, three solo, while Ohlmaier added two more solos for a total of four. The Pioneers have had double-digit block totals in five of their last six matches, their best stretch since 2013.
The loss snapped Whitworth's eight-game winning streak, and for Ohlmaier, gave a glimpse of what Lewis & Clark is capable in 2020.
"We know we can do it now and who we are," Ohlmaier said. "We need to come in with the same exact fire next year."
- Michelle McGinn had a career-high seven kills
- Lewis & Clark finishes the year 7-4 at home and 15-8 over the last two seasons, the first pair under head coach Emily Hayes
- Those home marks give the Pioneers their first back-to-back seasons with winning records at home since at least 2008
- Prior to Saturday, the Pioneers were 0-2 in five-set matches this season
- The Pios' 56 kills were their fourth-most in a match this season and third-most in NWC games
- With eight aces, the Pios were one short of matching their season high in a match this year
- Ballesteros finished her Pios career with 173 digs and 10 aces over 22 matches