The Wildcats opened their home schedule on Friday with two matches in the Spike It Up Classic, co-hosted by JWU and Colorado College.
The first match of the day featured the 'Cats facing #12 Pacific Lutheran University.
The visiting Lutes held a small lead in the opening set but put together a 15-0 run to close the set out and take a 25-7 win. In the second, Johnson & Wales struggled to find a rhythm early as PLU jumped out to a 7-0 advantage. A pair of errors by the Lutes got the Wildcats on the board but PLU continued to make the moves need to control the tempo of the set. The 'Cats chipped into PLU's lead to bring the set within four points at the midpoint. Pacific Lutheran capitalized on offensive errors on the 'Cats side of the net to push their lead back up. PLU held on to take the 25-13 win.
In the third set, Johnson & Wales opened the frame matching PLU on points and scoring runs to keep it close. The 'Cats built up a 12-8 lead on the Lutes but a 6-0 run by PLU put them back up top 14-12. JWU tied the set at 14-14 but PLU again found some rhythm and pushed themselves back out front. The Wildcats make small runs but couldn't meet the output of Pacific Lutheran, falling 25-20.
In the second match of the day, the Wildcats faced off against Briar Cliff University.
Briar Cliff tried to set a tempo early but the 'Cats weren't having any of that. JWU continued to battle the visiting Chargers for each point as neither team looked ready to concede. Each time one would make a small run the other squad with stop it and put together one of their own. The Chargers had enough momentum late to take the 25-20 opening set. In the second set, the two squads again traded scoring runs with Briar Cliff holding the 11-6 lead. Johnson & Wales pushed back and kept themselves within a few points for much of the set but the Chargers were able to stop a late rally and take another 25-20 victory.
In the third, the 'Cats trailed 5-1 early before they used their home crowd's energy to fight their way back in. The 'Cats rallied to trail 11-12 midway through the third set. JWU fought for each point keeping the Chargers within a point or two for most of the set but Briar Cliff had a run late to power their way to the 25-21 victory.
Paxton had nine kills for JWU and Brea Chaney (Commerce City, Colo.) hit .429 in the match. Paxton and Jones each had 10 digs for Johnson & Wales with Jacquelyn Ortiz (Cypress, Calif.) notching 15 assists.
The Wildcats will continue tournament play on Saturday when they host George Fox University at 10:00 am and Pacific University at 4:00 pm.