ELLENSBURG, Wash. – The 10th-ranked Western Washington University volleyball team opened Great Northwest Athletic Conference play with a 3-1 victory (19-25, 25-17, 25-18, 25-19) over rival Central Washington Thursday night at Nicholson Pavilion.
The Vikings improved to 7-2 overall (1-0 GNAC) with their fourth consecutive victory. CWU falls to 5-4 overall and 0-1 in GNAC play.
After dropping the first set 25-19, the Vikings settled in and won the next three sets to record a victory in Ellensburg for third time in the last four seasons.
“I thought we came out a little tight, but then we settled in and focused on what we have been working on in practice and focused on the next 10 seconds,” said head coach Diane Flick-Williams. “This was a big match, a rivalry, against a good team. There were some nerves in the start, but I am proud of the way they battled back and got the victory.”
Junior outside hitter Abby Phelps (Manson, WA/Chelan) and senior opposite Joellee Buckner (Colville, WA) each recorded a double-double, and junior middle blocker Michaela Hall (Centralia, WA) tallied 13 kills and a team-high 5 blocks.
Phelps recorded her seventh double-double of the season (37th of career) with 15 kills and 23 digs, and also had 3 service aces for a match-high 18.5 points. Phelps also surpassed 1,000 digs for her career, becoming the 13th player in program history to reach the 1,000-dig milestone.
Buckner, also a member of the 1,000-dig club, had her fifth double-double of the season with 14 kills and 18 digs.
Five Vikings recorded double-digits in digs, including 19 by junior libero Aubrey Buckner (Colville, WA) and junior setter Brette Boesel (Brewster, WA). Boesel led the offense with 50 assists for her fourth double-doubles (assists-digs) of the season. Senior outside hitter Arielle Turner (Leavenworth, WA/Cascade) just missed the double-double with 9 kills and 15 digs.
“Our first ball contact tonight was really good,” added Flick-Williams. “We played great defense and had a great serve and receive game. I felt like we put ourselves in a position to run a good offense, and after we settled in, that was the key.”
WWU out-hit Central .241 to .186 for the match, while the Wildcats held a slim 10.0 to 9.0 edge in blocks.
The Wildcats were led by a match-high 18 kills from Shelby Mauritson and 12 kills from Bridgette Webb.
CWU pulled away from the Vikings midway through the first set, going on a 5-1 run with the set tied 13-13 to take an 18-14 lead. WWU closed to within two points at 21-19, but the Wildcats closed out the opening set with a 4-0 run to win 25-19 and go up 1-0. Phelps had 4 kills and 11 digs in the opening set to lead Western.
Fueled by a 5-1 run, the Vikings took an early 10-6 lead in the second set, but CWU responded out of a timeout with a 5-1 run of its own to pull even at 11-11. WWU pulled away going on an 8-3 run to take a 19-14 lead, and closed out the set winning 25-17 to tie the match at one set apiece. The Vikings combined to hit .258 in the set, while limiting the Wildcats to a .050 hitting percentage.
WWU grabbed a 2-1 lead in the match winning the third set 25-18. After trailing early 7-4, the Vikings pulled away with a lengthy 7-1 run to go from a 12-10 deficit to a 17-13, and closed out the set to go up 2-1.
The Vikings and Wildcats started out with a tight fifth set, but Western pulled away from a 7-6 lead with a 5-1 run to grab a 12-7 advantage. WWU never let their lead slip to less than three points, and pulled away late for the decisive 25-19 match-clinching victory. Phelps and Buckner each had 5 kills in the deciding fourth set.
The Vikings (7-2, 1-0 GNAC) continue the opening week of GNAC play on Saturday traveling to play undefeated (9-0, 1-0 GNAC) Northwest Nazarene in Nampa, Idaho at 7 pm MT/6 pm PT. The match will be streamed live online at WWUVikings.com/Live and available via the GNAC channel on several streaming devices (Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, AndroidTV).
WWU’s home opener inside the renovated Carver Gym will be on Sept. 19 (Tuesday) at 7 pm vs. Simon Fraser will offer free admission for all fans.
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