Season Review: Viking success continues with best record in school history
Jan. 14, 2003
BELLINGHAM, Wash. - The trend line of success just keeps climbing higher for the Western Washington University women's volleyball team.
The Vikings had their third consecutive outstanding season under the leadership of coach Diane Flick (3 yrs., 71-17), who was named American Volleyball Coaches Association NCAA Division II Pacific Region Coach of the Year. They were 23-3, being ranked as high as seventh in the AVCA NCAA II Top 25 and No.11 in the final poll, and sweeping to the Great Northwest Athletic Conference championship with an 18-0 mark for the second consecutive year.
Along the way, they set a school record for winning percentage (.885), knocked off a pair of nationally ranked teams, had an 18-match winning streak, and extended their string of conference victories to 41. The league streak, which began in 2000, is now the seventh longest in NCAA II history.
The Vikings even had two All-Americans, as junior setter Liz Bishop (Seattle/Mount Rainier) was named to the first team by AVCA and the second team by Daktronics, and junior libero Nicola Parker (Auburn) was a Daktronics third-team selection.
"If I look at the season as a whole, we made significant strides again," Flick said. "We repeated as conference champions, and we got a couple wins early in the season against nationally ranked teams in non-conference matches."
About the only blight on the season was being knocked out in the opening round of the NCAA II National Tournament. The Vikings fell at the Pacific Regional to Cal State L.A. in five games, having their season come to an end after having three match points in the fourth game.
"We can't let that take away from the year as a whole," said Flick. "Those kinds of situations can propel us through the next year. It will be something we remember as we train from January to August."
That Bishop and Parker were All-Americans at non-hitting positions was an indication of Western's strength in defense and ball control.
Bishop was named GNAC Player of the Year, and along with Parker and sophomore middle blocker Meghan Evoy (Olympia/Capital) was named to the ACVA Pacific Region all-star team. Bishop and Parker also were Daktonics all-region picks.
Bishop led the league and ranked fifth nationally in NCAA II in assists with a school-record average of 13.59. She also contributed 81 kills on a .361 attack percentage and averaged 2.61 digs a game. She ranks third in school history in career assists with 3,025, but her contribution can't be totally defined by numbers.
"Liz embodies what the ideal student-athlete is," said Flick. "You never question her work ethic, she sets the standard for that. Plus, she backs it up with her academic honors. She has the full package."
Parker made the transition to the new libero position almost seamlessly, leading the GNAC and being fifth nationally in digs with a school-record 5.44 a game. She ranks sixth in Western history in career digs with 893.
"It's tough for some former hitters to adapt to a specialist role, but Nicola has taken pride in it," said Flick. "She has defined the position for our level of play.
"When those two positions get individual honors, that's indicative of the team's success. Our team signature is our defense and ball control, and those two positions highlight that kind of signature."
Senior outside hitter Shannon Rowland (Bellingham/Meridian) was an all-league pick for the third straight season and earned honorable mention all-region status. Rowland led Western in kills (4.09) and service aces (0.52), being second in the GNAC in both categories. A four-year letter winner who was GNAC Player of the Year as a junior, Rowland completed her career in Western's top five in three categories, being second in kills (1,198), third in aces (165) and fifth in digs (1,036); and she became just the third player in school history to have both 1,000 kills and 1,000 digs.
"Shannon wasn't quite as good as her junior year, but she was still a staple for us in tight situations," Flick said. "She's been an important person for our program. She helped set the standard for what people in the program have to live up to."
Also earning all-GNAC status was Evoy (Olympia/Capital), who was fourth in the GNAC in kills (3.91) on a team-high attack percentage of .292, which was third in the conference. She had a career-high 25 kills in the regional loss to Cal State L.A.
Evoy combined with sophomore Kristy Carstensen (Puyallup) to give the Vikings the GNAC's top middle blocking combo. Carstensen averaged 3.01 kills and a team-high 0.88 blocks a game.
"Both our middles were threats, so the other team never got a break anywhere in the rotation," Flick said. "They have different styles, which made them deadly together."
Western's other two starters both came back from missing the 2001 campaign with injuries to have strong seasons. Sophomore outside hitter Brianna Murray (Everett/Cascade) averaged 2.50 kills and was fourth in the GNAC in digs (4.57). Senior right-side hitter Niki Smith (Beaverton, OR/Aloha) averaged 1.85 kills and provided a critical dose of experience on a team with only one other senior.
"Brianna was very stable for us, she was one of our primary passers, and the only people in the conference ahead of her in digs were liberos," said Flick. "Niki came back from back surgery and worked extremely hard. Her role changed from two years ago, but in the last three or four weeks, she was outstanding in every match, and she was the difference in the match at Alaska Anchorage."
Completing the Viking roster were four freshmen. Defensive specialist Megan Tevis (Puyallup/Emerald Ridge) saw regular action, averaging 2.53 digs a game and being sixth in the GNAC in service aces (0.44). Outside hitter Jamie Peterson (Kent/Kentwood) twice had eight kills in a match. Setter Kristen Urdahl (Spokane/Ferris) was used mostly as a serving specialist, and right-side hitter Krystal Knight (Sumner) saw limited action.
"It's a good freshman core," said Flick. "They have a great attitude and work ethic, and gave it their best effort every day in practice regardless of what playing time they got.
"Megan Tevis is still learning a new position after being a setter in high school, but she's probably the quickest person I've ever coached. She made up for her inexperience with her physical ability."
Western led the GNAC in kills (16.59), assists (15.35) and digs (21.98), ranking fourth nationally in NCAA II in assists and fifth in the other two categories. The Vikings have had winning percentages over .700 in all three of Flick's seasons, a mark reached just twice (1990, 1996) prior to her arrival. Western is also 31-1 at Sam Carver Gymnasium in those three seasons, with the only loss coming this year to eventual NCAA II national champion Brigham Young-Hawaii.
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