2007 WWU Volleyball Preview
July 18, 2007
BELLINGHAM, Wash. - A wealth of experience returns for the Western Washington University women's volleyball team.
Ten players return from last season, including every player who saw regular full-time action on a team that went 18-7 overall, finishing second in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference with a 14-2 mark and reaching the Pacific Regional of the NCAA Division II National Tournament.
"It's a blessing and a curse (to have so many players back)," said Western coach Diane Flick (8th year), who is the school's career leader in coaching victories (149) and winning percentage (.720 - ranks ninth nationally among active Division II coaches), and has been named GNAC Coach of the Year four times. "You have to deal with high expectations that the players put on themselves and how they deal with them. We've trained in past years to learn every day. If we can keep that mindset, then expectations shouldn't get in the way."
The Western roster has four seniors, led by libero Courtney Schneider (Snohomish), who was named to two All-America teams, being a first-team Daktronics, Inc., choice and a third-team American Volleyball Coaches Association pick. Schneider led NCAA Division II nationally in digs at 7.66 a game, setting a school-single season record with 666. She is already the school career record holder in digs with 1,844.
"She's very good at her position, but her greatest skill has been as a captain," Flick said of Schneider. "She leads the team to meet higher expectations. She's constantly working on her own game, which inspires others because they think she's already so good."
Schneider is hardly the only cog in Western's attack. Five hitters averaged better than 2.00 kills a game last year, and every one of them is back. And there is three second-team all-GNAC selections returning, all at different positions.
Senior outside hitter Jaime Anderson (SeaTac/Mount Rainier) was one of those second-team all-conference picks. She led Western in kills at 3.72 a game, ranking fifth in the conference, and was second on the team in digs (3.18). Another senior outside hitter, Emily Castro (Bellingham/Meridian), who was the 2006 GNAC Newcomer of the Year and received honorable mention all-league, averaged 2.81 kills.
Also returning at outside hitter is junior Shanley Besett (University Place/Curtis), who averaged 2.35 digs in 20 games last year.
"Jaime Anderson's growth in the program has been huge," Flick said. "I hope she has a great senior year, because she's earned every minute of it.
"Our entire outside-hitter group gives us heat, strength and ball control - everything you want at outside hitter."
Junior middle blocker Tiana Roma (Edmonds/Edmonds-Woodway) was, like Anderson, a second-team all-GNAC selection. She averaged 2.93 kills and 0.94 blocks, both second on the team, and had a team-best attack percentage of .297.
"Tiana had a quiet outstanding year," said Flick. "Now we want her to have a noticeable outstanding one."
Also back at middle blocker is junior Angie Alvord (Laurel/Meridian), who led the league in blocks at 1.34 a game, and was fifth in service aces (0.39) with a team-leading total of 47. An honorable mention all-league pick, she also contributed 2.54 kills a game.
Right-side hitter Marissa Hill (North Bend/Mount Si), a junior, is also a returning starter. She averaged 2.07 kills, 1.92 digs and 0.82 blocks and played a key role along with the middles in helping Western lead the GNAC in blocking.
"We became better against outside hitters last year, because Marissa puts up such a good block against other teams' bigger hitters," Flick said.
Senior setter Katie Robinson (Everson/Nooksack Valley) was another second-team all-GNAC pick. She averaged 11.06 assists a game, which ranked third in the conference.
Sophomore Kari Rice (Toppenish/Eisenhower) also saw spot action last year.
"I consider the setters the hub of the wheel, and we have a very solid hub," Flick said. "They both bring different assets, and we have a lot of depth there. It's a comfort because it is such an important position."
Four freshmen complete the roster - outside hitters Megan Amundson (Stanwood) and Jordyn Bailey (Wenatchee), libero Allison Gotz (Bothell/Archbishop Murphy), and opposite-side hitter Kathryn Mertens (Olympia).
The Vikings face a difficult schedule. They open the season in Florida, where they will face defending NCAA II National Champion University of Tampa.
"My feeling was this team needs to follow the previous national champions and see the level we aspire to get to," Flick said. "It gives us a benchmark to build from for the rest of the season. I'm not one to schedule wins, I want to schedule opponents."
Western also hosts its own tournament Aug. 31-Sept.1, a seven-team affair where it plays three West Region rivals from the California Collegiate Athletic Association. The Vikings then open GNAC play at Saint Martin's University on Sept. 6.
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