Johnson & Wales University opened their NCAA Division III era on Friday at the Oregon Trail Classic against Willamette University and Lewis & Clark College.
The first match of the day saw the 'Cats taking on the Bearcats of Willamette. WU jumped out to an early 5-2 lead in the opening set before the 'Cats came back to tie the set at 7-7 off a kill by Brooke Paxton (Greeley, Colo.). WU put together another run to build some distance and push themselves up to a 20-12 advantage. A late push by JWU wasn't enough as Willamette took the 25-17 win. The second set looked better for Johnson & Wales after the Wildcats rallied from an early deficit to keep the score a two point difference. WU built a five point lead before a 4-0 run by JWU brought the 'Cats back within reach. The two sides traded points before WU finally captured the 27-25 win to lead 2-0. Willamette came out firing to start the third set, leading 11-1 early. Johnson & Wales made small strides but their late effort was enough, falling 17-25.
Paxton led Johnson & Wales with 12 kills and Brea Chaney (Commerce City, Colo.) add five kills while hitting .273. Emmy Gazaway (Louisville, Colo.) had 14 digs with Paxton and Kaitlin Jones (LaSalle, Colo.) adding 12 and 10 respectively. Gazaway also had 20 assists.
The second match saw the Wildcats face hosts Lewis & Clark College. The Pioneers began the game with a 6-0 run to assert themselves early. JWU added two points to get on the board but LC went on a 3-0 run to extend their lead to 9-2. The 'Cats again made up some ground, but the early deficit was too much as JWU fell 14-25. In the second, the 'Cats rallied from a 4-0 deficit to tie the set 4-4 after a 4-0 run of their own. The two teams traded points before the Pioneers broke up a 6-6 tie and went on a 11-0 run to push their lead up to 17-6. The 'Cats came back with a 10-1 run to cut Lewis & Clark's advantage to two points. JWU wasn't able to make up the ground and fell 25-21. After an even start to the third set, Lewis & Clark put together a run to lead 13-5. With the momentum on their side, the Pioneers captured the 25-11 win to sweep the match.
Chaney had three kills for the Wildcats and Gazaway finished with 12 assists. Jones and Paxton each had nine digs for Johnson & Wales.
JWU will face Whitworh University at 12:30pm PDT and Linfield College at 3:00pm PDT on Saturday on the campus of George Fox University to wrap up their participation in the 2018 Oregon Trail Classic.