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Young Linfield volleyball team looking for consistent play

Linfield’s four-set loss in volleyball Saturday at home vs. No. 10-ranked Puget Sound was the latest evidence that the Wildcats have played inconsistently so far this season. The Wildcats lost the opening set 25-10 then kicked it up a notch. They lost the second set 25-21 and won the third 25-22 before losing the fourth set 26-24.

Linfield coach Shane Kimura said with a young team up and down play is expected.

“That’s the biggest thing we’re working on,” he said. “We’ve been in a lot of four and five game matches. That shows that we’ve played well at times and not so well at other times.”

The Wildcats (7-7, 2-4) have played four five-set matches and four four-set matches, but where some of those contests were going their way at the beginning of the season, the last few weeks have been tough for the young team. They were 7-2 Sept. 15 after a three-set win at home vs. Lewis & Clark, but since then Linfield has lost five straight matches, the last two coming at home over the weekend vs. No. 10 Puget Sound and No. 22-ranked Colorado College.

“We started off really well but had a couple rough weeks,” Kimura said. “Just have to regroup. We’re playing some young kids. The potential is there for us to play at that level, and they see that, it’s just been a tough go the last couple weeks.”

Kimura’s team is young. Bethany Dickey is the only senior on the roster, and there are only two juniors. The bulk of Linfield’s talent is sophomores (eight players) and freshmen (five).

“Pretty much our core group of kids are sophomores now,” Kimura said. “Pretty good group of kids talent wise.”

Kimura — easily Linfield’s longest tenured coach at 35 years — is trying to get his players to keep playing consistently and reverse three straight years of losing seasons. The ’Cats were close last year at 11-14, and this year’s start proved they can beat quality teams.

“Our kids know that they can play with any team, but at the same time, you have to go out and compete the same every time,” Kimura said. “That’s our key right now. We have to go out and play as hard as we can and be as consistent as we can. With young teams, they sometimes lose focus.

“Hopefully we can regroup and get better this next weekend.”

The Wildcats have 10 matches remaining on their schedule, with six of the 10 on the road. They are tied for fifth in the Northwest Conference with Lewis & Clark and Whitman.

Notes: Kailana Ritte-Camara leads the Wildcats with 149 kills this season. Leimomi Hookano is second with 113 kills, Kelsey Ludin is third with 103. … Linfield plays Friday at Whitman and Saturday at Whitworth.
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