SEATTLE, Wash. – The 8th-ranked Western Washington University volleyball team went the distance Thursday night, earning a hard-fought 3-2 road win over Seattle Pacific in Great Northwest Athletic Conference action at Royal Brougham Pavilion.
With the 21-25, 25-20, 25-21, 15-25, 15-13 victory, WWU extended its winning streak to 15 in a row to improve to 22-3 overall and remains in first place in the GNAC with a 16-1 league mark with three regular-season matches remaining. SPU played its 11th five-set match of the season, going 6-5 in those contests, and dropped below .500 for the season at 12-13 overall and 7-10 in GNAC play.
“Complete hats off to Seattle Pacific for a great match, giving us a tremendous test that we really needed,” said 18th-year WWU head coach Diane Flick-Williams. “I am proud of my team for their response tonight, especially after the fourth game. This was a test we needed and winning on the road in this conference is extremely tough.”
With the match tied 2-2, the Vikings were pushed to a fifth set for just the third time this season. WWU pulled away from a 4-4 tie in the deciding set by going on a 3-0 run to take a 7-4 lead. The Vikings continued the run to take leads of 9-5 and 11-7 before SPU called its final timeout. The Falcons responded going on a 5-0 run out of the timeout to take a 12-11 lead, before junior middle blocker Michaela Hall leveled the set at 12-12 with a kill. Gabby Oddo recorded her 21st kill of the match to give SPU the 13-12 lead, but the Vikings answered with three straight points to take the match to improve to 3-0 in five-set matches this season. Abby Phelps tied things up with a kill, combined with Joslyn Bopray on a block to go up 14-13, and then sealed the victory with her 19th kill of the match.
Phelps (Jr., OH, Manson, WA/Chelan) tied her career high with 19 kills, and recorded her GNAC-best 19th double-double of the year adding 15 digs. She had her fifth career match with exactly 19 kills, with the final kill being the most important of the night, giving Vikings the victory with the final point in the deciding fifth set. Overall, Phelps hit .300 for the match (19-1-60), and also tabbed 4 blocks and one ace for a team-high 22.0 points.
Senior opposite Joellee Buckner (Colville, WA) contributed her 12th double-double of the season with 16 kills and 25 digs.
Hall (Jr., MB, Centralia, WA) added 14 kills on a .312 hitting percentage and junior setter Brette Boesel (Brewster, WA) recorded a career-high 62 assists and tallied the double-double with 10 digs.
Junior libero Aubrey Buckner (Colville, WA) led the Vikings with 28 digs and Bopray (So., MB, Spokane, WA/Lewis & Clark) tied Phelps with a team-high 4 blocks.
“Aubrey did a great job shoring up the left side of our defense,” added Flick-Williams. “After the first set, she made some adjustments that were really key for us.”
SPU sophomore Gabby Oddo led four Falcons in double-digits in kills with a match-high 21 kills, also adding 10 digs for the double-double. Hannah Lautenbach tabbed a 20-kill, 26-dig double-double and Gabi Stegemoller contributed 15 kills on a .625 hitting percentage. Amanda Ganete led all players with 35 digs. Symone Tran recorded a GNAC 2017-best 68 assists to lead the Falcon offense.
SPU out-hit the Vikings .265 to .245 in the match, and had advantages in blocks (10.0-7.0), digs (106-92) and service aces (5-4).
The Vikings dropped the opening set 25-21, holding a late lead at 19-17, but SPU used an 8-2 run to close out the set and go up 1-0. WWU hit .333 in the opening set that featured 11 tie scores, but SPU was even better with a .419 hitting percentage. J. Buckner led the Vikings with 6 kills (.600) and Bopray added 4 kills.
WWU fought back to even the match 1-1 with a 25-20 second-set win. The Vikings built a sizeable 18-9 lead by going on a 9-2 run, and led 23-14 before SPU started chipping away at the lead. The Falcons went on a 5-0 run to pull to within five points at 23-18, and won 7 of 8 points to close to within four at 24-20, but a kill by Phelps put the game away for WWU.
Western took a 2-1 lead in the match with a 25-21 win in the third set. The Vikings used a 9-2 mid-set run to go from a two-point deficit at 7-5 to a 14-9 lead. The Falcons pulled to within two points at 20-18, but WWU won a long rally to take the three-point lead and finished out the set to take the lead in the match.
The Falcons took control of the fourth set from the beginning, opening with an 8-1 lead, and never looked back in the 25-15 victory to set up the deciding fifth set.
The Vikings close out the road portion of the regular-season schedule on Saturday traveling to Saint Martin’s in Lacey for an 8 pm match at Marcus Pavilion. WWU will finish the regular season in Bellingham with a pair of big matches against Northwest Nazarene on Nov. 16 (Thursday) and host Central Washington for Senior Night on Nov. 18 (Saturday).
All GNAC matches are streamed live on WWUVikings.com/Live and available via the GNAC channel on several streaming devices (Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, AndroidTV).
Game Notes: The 15-match winning streak is sixth-longest in program history…WWU entered tonight’s match dropping only three of 45 sets during the winning streak…Abby Phelps moved into 9th place in WWU history with 1,037 career kills…Joellee Buckner passed 800 kills for her career, moving into 20th place in WWU history with 814 career kills…WWU extended its winning streak vs. SPU to 8 consecutive matches and has won 12 of last 13 dating back to the 2011 season.
VB🏐: A look at the final point of the match for @WWUVolleyball on a kill from Abby Phelps as the Vikings close the fifth set with three straight points and win the match over SPU with a 3-2 (21-25, 25-20, 25-21, 15-25, 15-13) victory.#GoViks #VIKtorious pic.twitter.com/kmzGh8VEXA
— WWU Athletics (@WWUAthletics) November 10, 2017
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