By Brandon Adam, Sports Reporter
The Lutes locked up at least a share of the 2012 Northwest Conference crown with victories over Pacific and Willamette last weekend.
The conference champs made quick work of Pacific Friday winning in straight sets, 25-16, 25-14 and 25-19.
The win was head coach Kevin Aoki’s 300th at Pacific Lutheran. Aoki has coached the Lutes since 1996. The second highest win total for a PLU head volleyball coach is 78.
Saturday provided a stiffer challenge as the Lutes needed all five sets to knock off Willamette 25-19, 25-23, 12-25, 18-25 and 15-6.
Sophomore middle blocker Becca Holtgeerts finished with a match-high 20 kills.
The Lutes hold an overall record of 19-5, 13-2. Puget Sound trails the Lutes by one game for the outright conference title.
Fans cheered the Lutes throughout the whole game in Olson on Friday night. Several members of the student section wore Halloween costumes. One of the students dressed as Psy and performed his own rendition of the singers hit song “Gangnam Style” during a break in the second match.
Members of the PLU faithful, some dressed in their Halloween costumes, cheer for the Lutes last weekend. The Lutes’ two conference victories guaranteed PLU at least a share of the NWC crown. Photo by Thomas Soerenes.
The Halloween atmosphere did not distract the Lutes. Their offense, fluid defensive passing and blocking near the net sent the crowd of 450 home after only an hour and 17 minutes of volleyball.
Sophomore outside hitter Chelsea Nelson led the Lutes with nine kills.
“Our team really played well as a whole,” Nelson said. “Our middles are connecting better.”
Despite losing the first two sets, the Boxers capitalized on Lute errors in the third set, putting the sweep in question.
However, tied 19-19, the Lutes rattled off the next six points, sealing the rout.
“We just made a little more mistakes,” head coach Kevin Aoki said.
After coasting Friday, the Lutes ground out a victory Saturday over Willamette.
The Lutes decisively won the first set against the Boxers, 25-19, however, the Boxers increased their intensity almost taking the second set before falling 26-24.
The teams split the following two sets forcing a fifth.
Junior outside hitter Haley Urdahl was sidelined by an injury, but the Lutes overcame the setback and won the final set 15-6.
“Everyone stepped up as a team,” Nelson said “Everyone on the bench is capable of playing.”
The Lutes conclude their regular season schedule tonight at 7 p.m. against George Fox in Newberg, Ore.
A victory earns the Lutes the outright conference championship.
A loss coupled with a Puget Sound victory over Lewis and Clark tomorrow would earn the Lutes a co-conference championship.