Whittier upsets Cal Lutheran

Whittier upsets Cal Lutheran

Photo by: Tony Leon/ActionWestPhotography.com

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – The Whittier College Volleyball team made history Saturday night as they pulled off the program's first win since 2003 over Cal Lutheran University 27-29, 25-16, 25-21, 25-20.

Coming off a tough five-set loss to Pomona-Pitzer, Whittier was able to regroup to pull off the four set victory over the Regals to keep them in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) playoff hunt.

The Purple & Gold snap their two game losing skid as they improve to 15-10, 8-5 SCIAC and currently sit 5th in the SCIAC Standings a game out of 4th.   Since 1991 when Cal Lutheran established their volleyball program, Whittier has six victories coming in 1991, 1992, 1993, 1997, 2003, and now 2018.  

Three Poets reached double figures led by Makenzie Thieme (Corona, Calif.) with a double double of 20 kills and 12 digs.  Freshmen Katelyn Popoff (Hacienda Heights, Calif.) and Franki Piloto (Ontario, Calif.) both added 14 and 12 kills respectively.  All three combined for eight blocks. 

Camryn Purdom (Moreno Valley, Calif.) and Hannah Joyce (Ladera Ranch, Calif.) shared the work-load with 24 and 22 assists, respectively and combined for 19 digs, while Haley Petruescu (La Mirada, Calif.) added 20 digs in the backrow.  Abby Salmon (Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.) got the start up front and despite not having a kill provided three assists, a service ace, and four blocks. 

The other point scorers for the Poets included Aubrey Caires (Gardnerville, NV) and Alaina Rhee (Kent, WA) with seven kills apiece.

Whittier jumped all over the Regals in the first set early going on top 15-9 thanks to a 10-3 run, which included Caires going off with four strikes.  CLU though weathered the storm and came back with four in a row to cut the deficit to two before tying things up at 17-17 after another four unanswered.

After an attacking error by the Regals and a kill by Popoff gave WC a 19-17 advantage, CLU responded with another three to take a lead at 20-19.  The frame then went back and forth after that with five ties and Whittier dismissing three set points with Thieme unloading for two kills.  But the Poets weren't able to get a lead after that always battling but never getting an advantage as the Regals would take the opening frame 29-27.

The Poets hit .351 in the second set and held CLU to just .093 en route to deadlocking the match.  Once again the set went back and forth early until the Poets were able to get some breathing room using a 12-2 run to go on top 23-13 before Thieme would secure it with a kill.

CLU regrouped in the third to lead 11-8 but saw that evaporate quickly with WC creating a 6-2 spurt that swung the momentum giving the Purple & Gold a 15-13 lead.  Immediately after that, the Poets and Regals battled again with another five ties ending at 20-20 before the Poets would close out the stanza with a 6-1 run capped off with three straight kills from Piloto.

The final set was all Whittier leading 10-5 and then 16-10.  CLU came back to pull within two at 21-19 but couldn't complete the comeback as Thieme and Rhee went back-to-back-to-back to give the Poets a match point at 24-19, which they would grab thanks to Thieme and her 20th kill of the evening.                       

Whittier has a big match-up tonight, Tuesday, October 23 as they welcome in the University of La Verne beginning at 7:00pm with playoff implications on the line.