Kevin Aoki, the head volleyball coach, has led the team to nine NWC championships in the last 16 years. In preseason, it seemed like coaches throughout the league felt the team may have lost a step after Whitworth was named the favorite to win the conference.
In preseason, coaches across the conference voted Whitworth as the dominant team of the year and voted down PLU.
After their first weekend of conference play, the team was swept by Whitworth, losing 0-3.
The next day, they bounced back to beat Whitman 3-0. The Lutes play was inconsistent causing the large discrepancy in play between the two matches. Outside hitter, junior Cara Gillespie shares insight into what is needed to make sure the Lutes are on their game all the time.
“We have an overwhelming amount of young talent this season,” Gillespie said. “I think the key to our success will come down to can we play well consistently together.”
The senior captains, Lucy Capron and Kacey Hartman along with senior libero Kylai Cooley are this year’s team leaders. According to Cooley, the senior leadership stresses young talented players, like first-years, Kendle Valade-Nunez and Chloe Epker, take on larger leadership roles within the team.
“It has been amazing to see how well our first-year students are transitioning into their roles,” Cooley said. “Their excitement and passion for the game, on top of their talent, is a key factor in our team chemistry this year.”
It’s a different mix of players this year for the Lutes. After losing key seniors like Amy Wooten, Samantha North and Amber Aguilar, the Lutes had to make adjustments.
The end result was many talented first-years mixed with talented upperclassmen.
With their 7-4 record, the chemistry hasn’t clicked perfectly. However, it is only a matter of time before we see the team back on track, consistently winning games with both the first-years and veterans at the helm of their well-oiled squad.
Look to keep up with weekly scores on how the Lutes are doing in conference play. Their next game is Oct. 2 at Willamette at 7 p.m.
Hear it from the coach…