BELLINGHAM, Wash. --- -
At the time, the 1990 season was easily the best for the Western Washington University volleyball program. In fact, the campaign was among the finest for any sports team in school history.
An unranked and unsung Viking squad produced a stunning third-place performance at the NAIA National Tournament, the best by WWU in any sport, and came within two points of reaching the title match. Not bad for a program that was making its first national appearance.
"We were definitely the surprise team of the tournament," said WWU coach Chris Hartmann in an interview following the season. "People asked us the whole tournament, `Where did you come from?' because we were never nationally ranked."
WWU, which finished with a 34-10 record, was not rated in the NAIA National Poll, but went 3-1 in pool play at nationals, then beat host Brigham Young-Hawaii in the quarterfinals in five games before a crowd of 1,500.
"That was the best match we played all year," Hartmann said. "We passed almost flawlessly, and our offense took them out of the defensive style they liked to play. The consensus of the people there felt it was the best match of the tournament."
In the semifinals, the Vikings fell to eventual champion Hawaii Pacific despite winning the first two games and having a 13-10 lead in the third, just two points away from reaching the finals.
"We really felt like if we had gotten those two points we could have been national champions," Hartmann said. "It took a little luster off the tournament, but the way that Hawaii Pacific played in the last two matches was unbelievable. They deserved to be national champions."
In the consolation final Nov. 17, WWU defeated nationally top-rated and No.1 seed St. Francis IL, 15-6, 16-14, 6-15, 15-9, to claim the third-place trophy.
It was a remarkable achievement for a program that had previously never won a district or regional championship. The Vikings took the NAIA District 1 tournament, defeating arch-rival Central Washington in the championship game, then earned a spot at nationals with a 15-11, 17-15, 15-11, victory over Western Oregon in the Region I championship before a school-record crowd of nearly 1,000. Those victories, both at Sam Carver Gymnasium, gave the Vikings an 11-0 record at home that season.
In pool play at nationals, WWU defeated Emporia State KS, Seton Hill PA and Montevallo AL before losing to St. Francis.
The 34 victories were a school record as was a 12-match winning streak that extended into the first three matches at nationals.
Hartmann, who was in his fourth season at Western, was the district's Coach of the Year. His team was led by two seniors who were both later inducted into the WWU Athletics Hall of Fame -- outside hitter Lorrie Post and setter Kim Kolody.
Post was a first-team NAIA All-American in 1990 and the district Player of the Year for the second consecutive season. She became the first player in WWU history to have 500 kills in a season, racking up 530 to rank No.15 nationally. Post also had 530 digs to set another school record. She completed her eligibility as the career leader in both categories with 1,174 kills and 1,274 digs.
Post earned first-team NAIA all-tournament recognition. Kolody, who had transferred the previous year from Warner Pacific OR, received second-team national all-tourney honors and was an honorable mention All-American. She had a WWU record 1,500 assists. Kolody also led the team in service aces with 79 and was second in digs with 298. That ranked her second nationally in assists and tied for 17th in aces.
A third district all-star for the Vikings was junior outside hitter April Lindsey, who had 220 kills and 93 blocks.
Middle blockers Tamara Locke, a sophomore, and Denise Dodge, a junior, provided threats in the middle. Locke had 238 kills, while Dodge led the Vikings in blocks with 125. Dodge had 38 of those blocks at nationals, 11 against BYU Hawaii.
Sharing time at the other outside hitter position were two seniors, Kim Wells and JoAnn Luchino. Wells was second on the team in kills with 241, despite seeing limited action after an ankle injury at the district playoffs.
Anchoring the back row was senior defensive specialist Wendy Brown, who had 261 digs.
"It was a really great year," Hartmann said. "We played consistently all season and peaked at the right time. When we beat Central Washington in the district final, we played our best match of the year to that point. But we saved our best for nationals, particularly the match against BYU Hawaii."
WWU ranked nationally in four team categories, including assists (tied for 7th), kills (tied for 9th), aces (tied for 8th) and passing percentage (tied for 11th).
Reaching the national tournament was the culmination of a four-year journey for the Vikings. Five of the players who went to Hawaii were freshmen when Hartmann began coaching at WWU and had set a goal of reaching nationals before they graduated. They amended that goal at the start of the 1990 season, focusing on reaching the final four of the national tournament.
"There had been no recruiting done and we started off right at the basics," Hartmann said of his arrival at Western. "We spent four years of looking at volleyball in a balanced way and took a lot of pride into all aspects of the game, not just hitting."
By Paul Madison who served 48 years as sports information director at WWU from 1966 to 2015
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