Photo by: Tony Leon/ActionWestPhotography.com
SOUTHWESTERN, TX – The Whittier College Volleyball team saw their 2017 season come to a close Friday night in the first round of the NCAA Division III National Championships as they fell in four sets to host Southwestern University (TX).
The Purple & Gold were one and done despite putting up a fight with the No. 3 seed. You could see the nerves show in the first set as Whittier fell 25-12 quickly but rebounded nicely to level the match with a 25-22 win in the second frame. But over the final two sets, it was all Southwestern as they pulled off the 25-15, 25-21 sweep to clinch the home win.
Whittier finishes their season posting an 18-10, 10-6 SCIAC record and was one shy of the program record for wins, which was 19 achieved back in 2015. Head Coach Chris Duarte-McDermott again put together an impressive year seeing Ashley Whittall (Norwalk, Calif.) named the SCIAC Newcomer of the Year, Makenzie Thieme (Corona, Calif.) named AVCA All-West Region and four Poets named All-SCIAC. He also earned the two biggest upset wins in program history over then No. 10 Trinity (TX) and No. 14 La Verne, while achieving the program's first appearance into the NCAA Division III National Championships.
After a rough first set, the Purple & Gold bounced back to level the match at 1-1. They hit .318 in the second and jumped out in front early 6-3 but they couldn't hold the lead however as the Pirates would storm back to tie things up on seven different occasions.
Trailing 20-19, senior Alexis Mills (Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.) sparked a 3-0 run with a kill in the middle and was followed by an SU attacking error and a service ace by Hannah Joyce (Newport Beach, Calif.). This gave WC a 22-20 advantage, a lead they wouldn't relinquish as Mills, Joyce, and Thieme would combo for three kills that secured the tie.
In the third, the Poets battled pulling within one at 10-9 following a 5-1 run, which included a kill and two aces by Thieme. The Pirates stretched the lead back to seven soon after and despite kills by Mills and Alaina Rhee (Kent, WA) down the stretch, they couldn't overcome the large deficit as they fell in a 2-1 hole.
In the fourth, Whittier again went out in front but saw it erased quickly as SU put together a 7-2 run that swung the momentum. The Purple & Gold tried to stay within striking distance down the stretch as they kept the deficit at two, which included a 23-21 mark thanks to an ace by Camryn Purdom (Moreno Valley, Calif.) and a kill by Thieme. But again SU was able to put the match away with back-to-back connections by Jamison Duck and Brittany Hohlt.
Thieme led the Poets with 13 kills with seven digs and two service aces. Whittall was one shy of a double double with 11 kills and nine digs, while Mills had a season high nine kills on 19 attempts, hitting .368. Adding seven kills and four digs was Rhee, who also hit .333.
Purdom posted 22 assists with 12 digs, with Joyce adding 15 assists and Clarissa Standafer (Alta Loma, Calif.) finished with 20 digs in the backrow.