WEEKLY RELEASE: Vikings close out regular season with regional berth on the line

WWUVIKINGSDOTCOM Head Coach Carmen Dolfo
WWUVIKINGSDOTCOM
Head Coach Carmen Dolfo
WWUVIKINGSDOTCOM

March 2, 2009

Complete Release

BELLINGHAM, Wash. -

UPDATE: With an at-large berth in the West Regional of NCAA Division II National Tournament on the line, the Western Washington University women's basketball team closes out its regular season with two Great Northwest Athletic Conference road games, traveling to Western Oregon on Thursday (7 p.m.) and Saint Martin's on Saturday (7 p.m.).

The Vikings, who were No.5 in last week's West Region rating, are 17-8 overall and fourth in the GNAC standings at 9-5 behind Alaska Anchorage (13-2), Seattle Pacific (12-2) and Northwest Nazarene (10-4).

Last week, Western split a pair of conference counters at home where it finished 11-2 this season, defeating Alaska Fairbanks, 77-32, and losing to nationally No.6-ranked Alaska Anchorage, 65-62.

The Vikings are looking to earn one of five at-large berths at regionals, joining the GNAC, California Collegiate Athletic Association and Pacific West Conference champions. The GNAC and PacWest determine their automatic berths by the regular-season standings. The CCAA automatic berth is determined by a post-season tournament this weekend and an upset winner there could hurt Western's chances.

Last year, Western, decimated by injuries, did not reach post-season play for the first time in 10 seasons as an NCAA member. The Vikings won the regional title in 2000, reaching the national semifinals.

Pacing Western is the inside-outside combination of sophomore guard Amanda Dunbar and senior forward Jessica Summers, who are averaging 13.0 and 11.8 points per game, respectively. Dunbar also leads the team in assists (3.2 avg.), and Summers tops the squad in rebounds (8.3), grabbing double-figure boards in four of the last six games.

Dunbar ranks sixth among GNAC leaders in scoring, seventh in assists and ninth in free-throw accuracy (77.8 percent, 56-of-72). Summers, a transfer from NCAA I Idaho, is fourth in the league in blocks (1.3), fifth in rebounds, sixth in free-throw shooting (81.3 percent, 65-of-80) and 11th in scoring.

Senior center Claire Pallansch is averaging 9.9 points and 5.7 rebounds. She is just the fourth player in school history to have career figures exceeding 1,000 points (1,027), 700 rebounds (749) and 100 blocked shots (109).

Junior forward Willow Cabe is averaging 9.2 points and 6.3 rebounds. She ranks fifth among GNAC leaders in free-throw shooting at 81.7 percent (67-of-82) and seventh in blocks (1.1).

Sharing time at point guard are senior India Soo, who is averaging 5.2 points, 2.7 assists and a team-leading 1.5 steals; and sophomore Megan Pinske, who is averaging 4.8 points after missing the first part of the season recovering from summer knee surgery.

Soo ranks ninth in the GNAC in 3-point shooting at 40.4 percent (23-of-57).

Western has received strong play off the bench from sophomore guard Marelle Moehrle, senior forward Liz McCarrell and junior forward Gabby Wade.

Moehrle is averaging 6.8 points, hitting 44.0 percent (48-of-109) from 3-point range. She ranks third in the GNAC in 3-point makes (1.9) and sixth in accuracy from beyond the arc.

McCarrell is scoring at a 7.0 per game clip, and Wade is averaging 5.9 rebounds and 5.0 rebounds.

Western leads the league in blocked shots, averaging 4.6 per game. The Vikings are second in the GNAC in seven team categories - scoring offense (73.1), scoring margin (plus-11.3), rebound margin (plus-4.4), field-goal percentage (43.5), field-goal percentage defense (36.2), 3-point percentage (38.7) and 3-point percentage defense (28.7).

Western Oregon is 8-17 overall and 3-11 in conference play. The Wolves have lost their last seven contests, one of those 83-67 to WWU on Feb. 21 at Bellingham.

WOU is led by 5-10 junior forward Katie Torland, who ranks second among league scorers with a 17.1 per game average and ninth in rebounds at 7.2.

Three other returning starters for coach Greg Bruce (3rd year, 19-60; 18th overall, 312-197) are 5-9 sophomore guard Sara Zahler (8.1 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 51.9 3-pt. pct., 42-of-81 - 3rd in GNAC), 5-11 sophomore forward Whitney Chase (8.5 ppg, 4.1 rpg) and 5-10 junior forward Shayla Corder (8.5 ppg).

The Wolves are second in the league in free throw accuracy at 74.1 percent (375-of-506).

Saint Martin's is 16-10 overall (March 5 host Seattle Pacific) and 7-7 in GNAC play, winning eight of 11 games on its home floor. The Saints have lost five of their last eight contests following a 13-5 start. SMU, which lost 86-78 in overtime to Western on Feb. 7 at Bellingham, is led by 5-10 sophomore forward Dara Zack, who ranks third among GNAC leaders in both points (14.2 avg.) and rebounds (8.7 avg.).

Three other standouts for coach Tim Healy (13th year, 167-186) are 6-1 junior center Krissy Bassett (10.2 ppg, 5.7 rpg), 5-6 junior guard Jamey Gelhar (12.0 ppg) and 5-6 sophomore guard Roni Jo Mielke (9.6 ppg, 3.3 apg).

Gelhar is leading the nation and GNAC in free throw shooting (97.9 percent, 93-95), and ranks third among league leaders in 3-point accuracy at 44.9 percent (44-of-98). She has made 78 straight free throws, the NCAA record for all divisions.

Saint Martin's, which got to regionals and finished 17-11 last year, leads the GNAC and ranks seventh nationally in free-throw accuracy (79.2 percent, 415-of-524) and is second in 3-point shooting at 39.5 percent (167-of-423).

WEST REGION PLAYOFF PICTURE: The announcement of the playoff field will be made Sunday, March 8. Five teams will receive at-large berths and join the GNAC, California Collegiate Athletic Association and Pacific West Conference champions. The GNAC and PacWest determine their automatic berths by regular-season standings. The CCAA automatic berth is determined by a post-season tournament.

UPCOMING GAMES:

March 5 (Thu.) at Western Oregon* (Monmouth, OR - 7 p.m.) March 7 (Sat.) at Saint Martin's* (Lacey - 7 p.m.) March 13-14, 16 or 17 NCAA Division II West Regional (Site to be determined)

Home games (all caps) on Haggen Court at Sam Carver Gymnasium (WWU campus) #broadcast on KBAI Radio (930 AM) and via the internet at wwuvikings.com *Great Northwest Athletic Conference contest

THREE-DOT NOTES: This season, the Vikings have defeated two Top 25 teams, Quincy IL and Seattle Pacific, and twice come within three points of another, that being Alaska Anchorage ... Western's five-game victory streak earlier this season was its longest since winning seven straight early in the 2006-07 season ... Dunbar was the GNAC Player of the Week for Jan. 25-31 ... Dunbar scored 37 points, the second-highest total in school history, in Western's 88-79 loss at Northwest Nazarene on Jan. 17, connecting on 12-of-19 field goals, 7-of-14 from 3-point range ... Summers missed three games this season with a fractured thumb on her non-shooting left hand and Pallansch was out for two contests with a back injury ... Dunbar was named Most Valuable Player at the 2008 WWU Great Western Shootout and was last season's GNAC Freshman of the Year ... Western won GNAC titles in 2002 and 2006.

Summers' 17 rebounds in Western's win over Hawaii Hilo on Nov. 29 were the most by a Viking since Sara Nichols brought down 19 against Lewis-Clark State on March 6, 1998 ... Summers was named MVP at the WWU Lynda Goodrich Classic, earned all-tourney honors at both the GNAC/CCAA and CCAA/GNAC Challenge Classics and received GNAC Player of the Week recognition for her performance at the Hawaii-Hilo Invitational ... McCarrell also was an all-tourney pick at the CCAA/GNAC Challenge Classic ... The Vikings opened the season with five straight tournaments. They swept two games at both the WWU Lynda Goodrich Classic and the Hawaii Hilo Invitational, while splitting a pair of contests at each of the GNAC/CCAA and CCAA/GNAC Challenge Classics as well as the WWU Great Western Shootout.

HOME COURT DOMINANCE: The Vikings are 387-69 (84.9 percent) in 37 seasons at Carver Gym and they finished 11-2 at home this season.

COACH DOLFO: Carmen Dolfo is in her 18th year as head coach at Western. She has a 373-151 (71.2 percent) record. Dolfo ranks No.14 among active NCAA II coaches in winning percentage and No.23 in victories. Dolfo's teams have reached post-season play 15 times and have won 20 or more games 13 times. She was named GNAC Coach of the Year in 2004 and 2006, Northwest small college Coach of the Year in 2000 and Pacific Northwest Athletic Conference Coach of the Year in 1995 and 1996. Dolfo was the top Viking assistant for four seasons (95-28, 77.2) and earned All-America honors as a player at Western.

TRADITION OF SUCCESS: With 805 victories (286 losses) in its 38-year history, Western is one of just 10 colleges in the nation to reach the 800-plateau... The Vikings have made 35 post-season appearances, including one stretch of 27 straight, with one semifinal and three quarterfinal finishes ... They also have had 27 20-win seasons ... Western has had 20 winning streaks of 10 or more games with its longest being 20 ... Former Western coach Lynda Goodrich, now the Vikings' director of athletics, is a member of the NAIA National Hall of Fame. She coached Western for 19 seasons, winning more than 400 games (411-127, 76.4 percent). Another Viking NAIA Hall of Famer is forward Jo Metzger (1977-81), who earned first-team All-American honors in 1980 and 1981 ... Western has had 13 first, second or third-team All-Americans.

RADIO BROADCASTS: Selected Western games are being broadcast this season on KBAI Radio (930 AM) with Doug Lange handling the play-by-play and Mark Scholten providing the color commentary. They also can be heard on the internet at www.wwuvikings.com.

ON THE WEB: For up-to-date statistics, box scores of every game, records, stories, etc., see the Western Athletic web page at www.wwuvikings.com. Up-to-date league standings and statistics can be found on the Great Northwest Athletic Conference web page at www.gnacsports.com.

PROBABLE WESTERN STARTERS & TOP RESERVES:

F Willow Cabe, 5-9, **Jr., McCleary, WA/Elma F Jessica Summers, 6-1, Sr.-TR, Blaine, WA/Blaine/Idaho) C Claire Pallansch, 6-1, **Sr., Redmond, WA/Redmond/Oregon State G Amanda Dunbar, 5-9, *So., Marysville, WA/Marysville-Pilchuck G India Soo, 5-6, **Sr., Kamuela, HI/Kamehameha/Idaho State

F Gabby Wade, 5-9, **Jr., Lacey, WA/River Ridge F Liz McCarrell, 5-11, ***Sr., Ferndale, WA/Ferndale G Marelle Moehrle, 5-9, *So., Lynnwood, WA/Meadowdale G Megan Pinske, 5-9, So., Coquitlam, BC/Port Moody/UBC F Lauren Hefflin, 6-2, *So., Ridgefield, WA/Ridgefield *letters won

LAST WEEK'S GAME SUMMARIES:

Feb. 26 - WESTERN 77, Alaska Fairbanks 32 at Bellingham

Western held Alaska Fairbanks scoreless for nearly 14 minutes to open the game and went on to claim a 77-32 victory in a GNAC contest at Carver Gym. McCarrell came off the bench to lead the Vikings with 14 points, and Dunbar and Pallansch each had 12 points. UAF fell to 5-18 overall and 0-14 in conference play with its 14th straight loss. Sheena Brown had a game-high 16 points for the Nanooks and Ronisha Edwards added 12 points and 10 rebounds. Brown and Edwards are two of just three players remaining from UAF's original 15-person roster, with nine of the players lost to season-ending injuries. The third player from the start of the season, guard Caitlin Hemsley, picked up four fouls in the first 11 minutes and sat out the rest of the first half. No player on the current roster is taller than 5-foot-9. Western scored off the opening tip, getting a Dunbar layin, then didn't score again until the 15:10 mark. But from there the Vikings extended the lead to 20-0 before UAF reached the scoreboard on two Brown free throws with 6:06 left in the first half. The Nanooks missed their first 23 shots from the floor, not getting a field goal until Edwards hit a shot from the key with 4:04 left in the opening period. Western held a 34-6 lead at halftime. The Vikings shot only 36.5 percent (11-of-30) from the field in the first half, but it was more than sufficient as the Nanooks were just 2-of-31 (6.5 percent) in the opening half. The six points allowed matched the fewest in Western history, a mark originally set against Evergreen State in 1998. Both teams were more proficient offensively in the second half, with Western outscoring UAF, 43-26. The Vikings shot 66.7 percent (16-of-24) from the field after halftime and made 12 of 25 (48.0 percent) 3-pointers in the game Western had a 56-30 advantage in rebounds, with Summers grabbing a game-high 12 and Cabe 11.

Feb. 28 - Alaska Anchorage 65, WESTERN 62 at Bellingham

Alaska Anchorage center Rebecca Kielpinski finished a 3-point play with 42 seconds left, lifting the nationally ranked Seawolves to a 65-62 victory over Western in a GNAC contest at Carver Gym. Summers had 16 points and Pallansch contributed 10 points and a game-high 10 rebounds for the Vikings, which suffered just its second loss in 13 home contests this season. UAA, ranked No.6 in the latest USA Today/ESPN/Women's Basketball Coaches Association NCAA Division II Top 25 Poll and No.3 in the West Region rating, improved to 26-3 overall and stayed atop the GNAC at 13-2. Forward Tamar Gruwell had 16 points and Kielpinski added 15 for the Seawolves, who had been the top-ranked team in NCAA II prior to losing back-to-back games last week. The Vikings had rallied from a four-point deficit with a 3-pointer by Pinske and a layin by Summers to take a 61-60 lead with 1:58 left. But after a tie up on a rebound went to UAA on alternating possession, Kielpinski took a feed from guard Jackie Thiel, hit the layin and then a free throw for the go-ahead points at 63-61. Pallansch made one of two free throws with eight seconds left, Thiel hit two free throws with five seconds remaining to make the margin three, and Dunbar's 3-point attempt at the buzzer to force overtime was long. Western held a 44-37 lead, the biggest of the contest for either team, six minutes into the second half, but UAA used a 12-3 run to take a 49-47 lead with 7:52 to go. Western rallied to tie the score at 52-52, but Dasha Basova hit a 3-pointer, then got a 3-point play with a reverse layin and free throw to give UAA a 58-52 lead with 5:08 to play, and the Seawolves stayed in front until Summers hit her layin inside two minutes. The game was the final home contest for four Western seniors - Summers, Pallansch, Soo and McCarrell. Western holds a 22-8 advantage all-time against UAA, but the Seawolves have won the last six meetings.