2009 GNAC Preview: Vikings eye fifth GNAC volleyball championship
Aug. 20, 2009
SPOKANE, Wash. - Western Washington head volleyball coach Diane Flick (196-50, 9 years) says her focus is on how her team will do in 2010.
"We have a very new group," said Flick, who needs four more wins to reach the 200-victory level in just her 10th season. "That's why we go into the season with a focus on what we look like in November of 2010, not August of 2009."
That, however, is not quite the view the rest of the coaches in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference are taking.
In the GNAC's Coaches pre-season poll, the Vikings received six of the nine first-place votes and outpointed defending champion Western Oregon by 10 points (60-50) in the balloting.
Three teams received first-place votes but the Wolves, who posted a 22-3 record winning 15 of 16 conference contests a year ago, were not one of them.
Northwest Nazarene, which ended up third in the balloting, received two first-place votes, and Seattle Pacific, which won just five of 16 conference contests a year ago, earned one first-place vote and finished fourth overall.
The Falcons were followed in the balloting by Central Washington (5th), Alaska Fairbanks (6th), Alaska Anchorage (7th), Montana State Billings (8th) and Saint Martin's (9th), respectively.
In terms of experience, Northwest Nazarene, Seattle Pacific and Alaska Fairbanks appear to be in the best shape going into the 2009 season.
The Crusaders, who have never won a GNAC volleyball title, have a conference-best 11 returning letter winners.
NNU, Seattle Pacific and Alaska Fairbanks each return five starters. The Crusaders and Falcons also return their liberos and SPU and the Nanooks each have 10 returning letter winners.
That's not to say that Western Washington and Western Oregon don't have a good group of returnees. They do.
The Vikings have seven letter winners as they go after their fifth GNAC title in the ninth season of the conference.
WWU won three championships in a row between 2001 and 2003. Two years ago, it won its fourth title, then became the first conference team to win the West Regional tournament, eventually reaching the national title match.
Back off last year's team that posted a 21-3 record and finished second in the GNAC (13-3), but then was shockingly denied a NCAA post-season berth, are three all-stars.
Libero Allison Gotz (5-3, Jr., Bothell, WA - Archbishop Murphy), who led the GNAC in digs (6.10), was a second-team GNAC all-star selection and earned AVCA honorable mention All-American honors.
Also earning second team GNAC honors was outside hitter Megan Amundson (5-11, Jr., Stanwood, WA), who finished fifth in the conference in kills (3.61) and also averaged 2.89 digs.
Also back for the Vikings is setter Kari Rice (5-11, Sr., Toppenish, WA - Eisenhower), who is the lone senior on the team.
A three-year letter winner, she was on the court for nearly every serve last season, earning honorable mention all-GNAC status and leading the conference in assists and ranking eighth nationally at 11.62.
Jepsen, who will move into a middle blocker spot after playing primarily on the right side last year, averaged 1.28 kills and 0.46 blocks. Adkins, who played in all but one set and started 13 of 24 matches, averaged 2.09 digs.
Western Oregon returns two all-stars among its four returning starters and has three veterans who ranked among the Top 10 in hitting percentage a year ago. Middle blocker Laura Sakala (5-10, Sr., Beaverton, OR) and setter Amy Herron (5-5, Sr., Spokane, WA - Mead) were GNAC honorable mention selections.
Sakala ranked fourth in hitting percentage (.299), averaging 2.04 kills per set. She also had 62 blocks. Herron averaged 6.37 assists and 2.71 digs.
Also back are Sharon Peterson (6-3, Sr., Corvallis, MT), who led the GNAC in kill percentage (.340) though she played in only half of WOU's contests and middle blocker Lisa Martini (5-11, Sr., Philomath, OR), who averaged 1.78 kills, ranked fourth in the GNAC in blocks with 84 and finished ninth in kill percentage (.262).
Also returning is libero Danielle English (5-4, Sr., Anchorage, AK - South Anchorage) and outside hitter Stephanie Beeler (5-10, Jr., Tillamook, OR). English had 5.58 digs per contest, while Beeler averaged 1.37 kills and had 57 blocks.
The Wolves also added setter Cally Young (5-6, Jr., Bend, OR - Mountain View), a transfer from Cal Poly Pomona. Young had 709 assists, 277 digs, 36 aces and 11 blocks in 167 sets for the CCAA school during the past two seasons.
Northwest Nazarene, which finished third in the GNAC in each of the past two seasons, returns two all-stars, including three-time selection Cammy Dranginis (6-0, Sr., Nampa, ID - Skyview).
Dranginis, who has 371 career blocks and needs just 32 more to become the GNAC's all-time career leader, has an opportunity to become the first volleyball player in conference history to earn first-team all-star honors in four consecutive seasons.
She has led the league in blocks in each of the past two seasons after finishing second as a freshman. A year ago, she had 107 blocks and also ranked seventh in the GNAC in kills (3.46) and sixth in kill percentage (.290) in earning AVCA honorable mention All-America honors.
Dranginis will have plenty of help this fall. Also returning from last year's starting unit are outside hitter Lindsay (Forseth) Grant (6-1, Sr. Nampa, ID), outside hitter Kailey Trautmann (5-10, So., Snohomish, WA - King's), setter Eki Punimata (5-11, Sr., Tacoma, WA - Lakes & Tacoma CC) and middle blocker Kelly VanElderen (6-2, So., Ripon. CA - Ripon Christian). Also back is libero Haley Hevern (5-3, Jr., Crater, OR).
Grant ranked ninth in kills in the GNAC a year ago averaging 2.91 per set in earning second team all-star honors. Trautmann averaged 1.37 kills and 2.51 digs in her freshman season, while Punimata netted 7.61 assists per set.
VanElderen chipped in with 1.04 kills per contest and 56 blocks. Hevern contributed 4.90 digs.
Seattle Pacific hopes to rebound from its first losing season since 2002 and appears to have the athletes to accomplish that.
In addition to returning five starters and its libero, the Falcons added middle blocker Amber Johnson (6-1, So., Mount Vernon, WA), who was the NWAACC North Region Co-MVP last season at Whatcom CC.
She'll join three returning honorable mention all-stars - middle blocker Robin De Jong (5-10, Sr., Santa Barbara, CA - Dos Pueblos), setter Joelle Perez (5-9, Jr., Vancouver, WA - Heritage) and libero Anna Herold (5-8, So., Bothell, WA - Shorecrest).
De Jong averaged 1.72 kills and ranked second in the GNAC in blocks with 98. Perez contributed 6.52 assists and had 53 blocks in sharing the position with Cortney Weedman (5-4, Sr., Scottsdale, AZ - Cactus Shadows), who contributed 5.69 assists per set.
Herold ranked third in digs, averaging 6.03, trailing only AVCA All-American honorable mention liberos Brandie Vea of Central Washington and Gotz of Western Washington.
Also among SPU's returning starters are outside hitters Lindsey Wodrich (5-9, So., Richland, WA) and Paige Hoffman (6-2, So., Encinitas, CA - Cathedral Catholic) and middle blocker Kylie Johnson (6-1, Jr., Tucson, AZ - Catalina Foothills).
Wodrich averaged 2.27 kills and 2.31 digs, while Hoffman contributed 1.52 kills and 48 blocks. Johnson also had 48 blocks and netted 1.32 kills per contest.
Central Washington returns just two starters in addition to Vea, who finished second in the conference in digs (6.08) in earning first team GNAC all-star honors.
Rightside hitter Erin Norris (5-10, Sr., Spokane, WA - Mead) averaged 2.52 kills and had 53 aces and 57 blocks in earning honorable mention all-star honors. Kady Try (6-0, Jr., Brentwood, CA - Spokane, Mead HS) contributed 2.59 kills, 2.19 digs and 39 blocks in a starting role.
The Wildcats also return 2007 starting setter Carlee Marble (5-8, So., LaConner, WA), who averaged 10.73 assists two years ago before sitting out the 2008 season.
Central also added three JC players, including a pair of all-stars. Middle blocker Bri Gregory (5-10, Jr., Bremerton, WA) was the NWAACC West Region MVP last season at Green River, while middle blocker Kristel Baeckel (5-9, Jr., Gresham, OR) was a first team South Region all-star at Clackamas CC.
Alaska Fairbanks returns two all-stars among five starters and 10 letter winners from a team that finished fourth a year ago in the conference with a 9-7 league record.
Outside hitter Megan Thigpen (5-10, Sr., Spokane, WA - Mead) averaged 2.66 kills and 3.31 digs in earning honorable mention all-league honors. Setter Alexa Sherman (5-9, Sr., Calabasas, CA) finished third in the conference in assists (10.40) in also earning GNAC honorable mention accolades.
Also back from last year's starting unit are rightside hitter Jessica Hill (6-0, Sr., Colorado Springs, CO - Doherty) and Heather Lyons (5-10, Sr., Anchorage, AK) and rightside hitter Marybeth Wikander (5-10, So., Aloha, OR - Valley Catholic).
Hill averaged 2.54 kills and had 51 blocks last season. Lyons chipped in with 1.62 kills and Wikander had 43 blocks.
Alaska Anchorage was the most improved team in the GNAC last season winning 15 of 29 matches and tripling its win total from its previous two seasons under first-year head coach Chris Green.
Green returns only five players off that squad, including setter Calli Scott (5-9, Sr., Scottsdale, AZ - Pinnacle & Glendale CC), who ranked second in the GNAC in assists (10.62) and had 47 blocks, in earning second team all-conference honors.
Also back is middle blocker Cortney Lundberg (6-1, Jr., Hardin, MT - Miles CC), who ranked fifth in the conference in blocks (105) and seventh in kill percentage (.290) and was selected an honorable mention all-star.
Also returning is middle blocker Ashley Bates (6-0, Sr., Peoria, AZ - Mountain Ridge & Glendale CC) - along with libero Stacie Meisner (5-8, Sr., Gering, NE - Western Nebraska). Bates had 46 blocks a year ago and Meisner averaged 4.52 digs and contributed 40 aces.
With only one other player returning - outside hitter McKenzie Moss (6-0, So., Anchorage, AK - Bartlett, 1.24 dps) - the Seawolves will need to rely on a strong recruiting class including transfer Jackie Matthisen (5-11, So., Anchorage, AK - East Anchorage) and JC all-star Lee Golden along with six freshmen to improve on last year's record.
Matthisen played in 36 sets two years ago at Western Oregon before redshirting at UAA a year ago. Golden (5-8, Jr., Pembroke Pines, FL) played on two national tournament teams at Hillsborough CC, earning honorable mention all-league honors as a sophomore.
Former Fort Hays State coach Steve Smith (44-82, 4 years) takes over at Montana State Billings and has six letter winners available off last year's team that won just seven of 30 matches.
Among the six is outside hitter Devon Crotteau (6-0, Sr., Casper, WY - Northern Colorado), who was one of the league's top kill producers, averaging 3.89 to rank second in the conference.
Crotteau also ranked 10th in kill percentage (.246), netted 3.19 digs per contest and contributed 29 aces and 36 blocks.
Also back are outside hitter Jennifer Boe (5-8, Jr., Casper, WY - Kelly Walsh), setter Hillary Morrison (5-10, Sr., Casper, WY - Chadron State) and libero Jill Trabing (5-8, Sr., Buffalo, WY).
Boe averaged 2.51 kills and 2.75 digs. Morrison was credited with 7.36 assists and Trabing had 3.52 digs.
Smith's first MSUB team will include only two other letter winners - middle blocker Melissa Porter (6-3, So., Redmond, UT - North Sevier) and defensive specialist Whitney Mickelsen (5-4, So., Aurora, UT - North Sevier) - along with five freshmen.
Saint Martin's will also be relatively young with just one returning starter - outside hitter Malia Ibarra (5-6, Jr., Olympia, WA - North Thurston) - among seven letter winners. Ibarra averaged 1.51 kills and 2.90 digs per set a year ago.
Four other players participated in 50 or more sets including defensive specialist Theresia Dever (5-7, So., Bremerton, WA - Central Kitsap), who averaged 2.31 digs and had 16 aces to earn honorable mention all-league honors.
That group also included libero Brianna Bautista (5-1, So., Puyallup, WA - Bethel, 2.86 dps), outside hitter Kristin Anderson (5-10, Sr., Vancouver, WA - LaSalle, 1.20 kps) and rightside hitter Angela Smith (5-9, Jr., Burien, WA - Kennedy, 0.31 kps, 0.96 dps).
Among SMU's recruits is middle hitter Sarah Gann (5-10, Jr., Tacoma, WA), who was a first team NWAACC West Region all-star at Tacoma CC.
Great Northwest Coaches Poll, 2008 Records, Pts 1. Western Washington (6), 21-3 (13-3), 60 2. Western Oregon, 22-3 (15-1), 50 3. Northwest Nazarene (2), 16-9 (10-6), 47 4. Seattle Pacific (1), 8-18 (5-11), 43 5. Central Washington, 16-12 (8-8), 39 6. Alaska Fairbanks, 15-10 (9-7), 33 7. Alaska Anchorage, 15-14 (7-9), 27 8. Montana State Billings, 7-23 (4-12), 15 9. Saint Martin's, 4-22 (1-15), 82009 GNAC TEAM CAPSULES
ALASKA ANCHORAGE SEAWOLVES
Head Coach: Chris Green, Nebraska `91 (15-14, 1 year)
Assistants: Nicky Rose, Emily Sakis
2008 Record: 15-14
Conference: 7-9, 6th
Returning Letter Winners: 5
Returning Starters (3+L): Calli Scott (S, 5-9, Sr., 10.62 aps, 2.57 dps, 47 blocks, 2nd team GNAC); Cortney Lundberg (MB, 6-1, Jr., 2.28 kps, 105 blocks, HM GNAC); Ashley Bates (MB, 6-0, Sr., 1.00 kps, 46 blocks); Stacie Meisner (L, 5-8, Sr., 4.52 dps, 40 aces)
Other Returnees: McKenzie Moss (OH, 6-0, So., 1.24 dps)
Transfers: Jackie Matthisen (MB/OH, 5-11, So., Anchorage, AK - Western Oregon); Lee Golden (OH, 5-8, Jr., Pembroke Pines, FL - Nova & Hillsborough CC)
ALASKA FAIRBANKS NANOOKS
Head Coach: Phil Shoemaker, Missouri '75 (105-108, 9 years; Overall, 348-410, 26 years)
Associate Head Coach: Amy Phelps
Assistant Coach: Jamie Schanback
2008 Record: 15-10
Conference: 9-7, 4th
Returning Letter Winners: 10
Returning Starters (5): Megan Thigpen (OH, 5-10, Sr., 2.66 kps, 3.31 digs, 29 aces, 22 blocks, HM GNAC); Alexa Sherman (S, 5-9, Sr., 10.40 aps, 2.24 dps, 22 blocks, HM GNAC); Jessica Hill (RS, 6-0, Sr., 2.54 kps, 1.56 dps, 22 aces, 51 blocks); Heather Lyons (OH, 5-10, Sr., 1.62 kps, 2.19 dps); Marybeth Wikander (RS, 5-10, So., 0.87 kps, 43 blocks).
Other Returnees: Simone Chavous (OH, 5-9, So., 1.36 kps); Melissa Refuerzo (OH, 5-8, Jr., 1.27 kps, 1.94 dps, 15 aces); Erica Gage (MB, 6-1, Jr., 0.64 kps, 23 blocks); Hannah Armstrong (DS, 5-7, Sr., 3.06 dps); Jennifer Holland (DS, 5-3, So., 3.17 dps)
Transfers: Jordyn Montgomery (DS, 5-2, Fr., Topeka, KS - Rockhurst)
CENTRAL WASHINGTON WILDCATS
Head Coach: Mario Andaya, CWU '93 (201-160, 13 years)
Assistants: Chloe Quirk, Rachael Schurman
2008 Record: 16-12
Conference: 8-8, 5th
Returning Letter Winners: 7 (1 from 2007)
Returning Starters (2+L): Brandie Vea (L, 5-3, Jr., 6.08 dps, 21 aces, AVCA HM All-American, 1st team GNAC); Erin Norris (RS, 5-10, Sr., 2.52 kps, 0.99 dps, 53 aces, 57 blocks, HM GNAC); Kady Try (OH, 6-0, Jr., 2.59 kps, 2.19 dps, 39 blocks)
Other Returnees: Deidre Scheidt (DS, 5-6, Sr., 1.84 dps); Carlee Marble (S, 5-8, So., 10.73 aps in 2007); Meg Ryan (OH, 5-11, So., 0.73 kps, 0.73 dps); Meggie Graf (DS, 5-9, Sr., 1.67 dps)
Transfers: Bri Gregory (MB, 5-10, Jr., Bremerton, WA - Green River CC); Kristel Baeckel (MB, 5-9, Jr., Gresham, OR - Sam Barlow & Clackamas CC); Jalisa Bullock (MB, 5-10, Jr., Tacoma, WA - Wilson & Tacoma CC)
MONTANA STATE-BILLINGS YELLOWJACKETS
Head Coach: Steve Smith, WOU (First year, Overall, 44-82, 4 years)
Assistants: Catherine Losett, Filip Alimpic
2008 Record: 7-23
Conference: 4-12, 8th
Returning Letter Winners: 6
Returning Starters (3+L): Devon Crotteau (OH, 6-0, Sr., 3.89 kps, 3.19 dps, 29 aces, 36 blocks, 1st team GNAC); Jennifer Boe (OH, 5-8, Jr., 2.51 kps, 2.75 dps, 28 blocks); Hillary Morrison (S, 5-10, Sr., 7.36 aps, 1.68 dps); Jill Trabing (L, 5-8, Sr., 3.52 dps)
Other Returnees: Melissa Porter (MB, 6-3, So., 1.06 kps, 23 blocks); Whitney Mickelsen (DS, 5-4, So.)
NORTHWEST NAZARENE CRUSADERS
Head Coach: Jared Sliger, Northwest Nazarene `91 (57-47, 4 years)
Assistants: Darlene Brasch
2008 Record: 16-9
Conference: 10-6, 3rd
Returning Letter Winners: 11
Returning Starters (5+L): Cammy Dranginis (MB, 6-0, Sr., 3.46 kps, 107 blocks, AVCA HM All-American, 1st team GNAC); Lindsay (Forseth) Grant (OH, 6-1, Sr., 2.91 kps, 3.11 dps, 27 aces, 37 blocks, 2nd team GNAC); Kailey Trautmann (OH, 5-10, So., 1.37 kps, 2.51 dps, 26 blocks); Eki Punimata (S, 5-11, Sr., 1.16 kps, 7.61 aps, 1.84 dps, 17 aces); Kelly VanElderen (MB, 6-2, So., 1.04 kps, 56 blocks); Haley Hevern (L, 5-3, Jr., 4.90 dps)
Other Returnees: Amy Higginson (S, 5-7, Jr., 1.08 kps, 6.63 aps, 1.73 dps); Jackie Bourdon (L, 5-6, Sr., 2.00 dps, 10 aces); Alaina Barber (MB, 5-9, So., 1.04 kps, 0.72 dps); Haley Abbott (OH, 6-0, So.); Kelsey Smith (S, 5-9, So.)
Transfers: Elisa Mooney (L, 5-6, Jr., Vale, OR - Treasure Valley)
SAINT MARTIN'S SAINTS
Head Coach: Phil Ibarra, Wayland Baptist `91 (10-88, 4 years)
Assistants: Tina Hinman, Val Ibarra
2008 Record: 4-22
Conference: 1-15, 9th
Returning Letter Winners: 7
Returning Starter (1): Malia Ibarra (OH, 5-6, Jr., 1.51 kps, 2.90 dps, 18 aces)
Other Key Returnees: Theresia Dever (DS, 5-7, So., 2.31 dps, 16 aces, HM GNAC); Brianna Bautista (L, 5-1, So., 2.86 dps); Kristin Anderson (OH, 5-10, Sr., 1.20 kps); Kristeen Juarez (RS, 5-11, So., 1.18 kps, 1.38 dps, 16 blocks); Kirstyn Druzianich (RS, 6-0, Jr., 1.52 kps, 0.95 dps); Angela Smith (RS, 5-9, Jr., 0.31 kps, 0.96 dps)
Transfers: Sarah Gann (MH, 5-10, Jr., Tacoma, WA - TCC)
SEATTLE PACIFIC FALCONS
Head Coach: Chris Johnson, Westmont '02 (69-38, 4 years)
Assistants: Nicola Parker, Johnny Lai
2008 Record: 8-18
Conference: 5-11, 7th
Returning Letter Winners: 10
Returning Starters (5+L): Robin De Jong (MB, 5-10, Sr., 1.72 kps, 14 aces, 98 blocks, HM GNAC); Anna Herold (L, 5-8, So., 6.03 dps, 10 aces. HM GNAC); Lindsey Wodrich (OH, 5-9, So., 2.27 kps, 2.31 dps, 21 aces); Paige Hoffman (OH, 6-2, So., 1.52 kps, 48 blocks); Kylie Johnson (MB, 6-1, Jr., 1.32 kps, 48 blocks); Cortney Weedman (S, 5-4, Sr., 5.69 aps, 1.85 dps)
Other Returnees: Joelle Perez (S, 5-9, Jr., 6.52 aps, 1.14 dps, 53 blocks, HM GNAC); Sarah Risser (OH, 5-9, Jr., 2.69 kps, 1.59 dps, 19 blocks); Jessica Bettencourt (MB, 5-11, Sr., 1.57 kps, 37 blocks); Priscilla Collings (OH, 6-0, So., 2.28 kps, 2.08 dps)
Transfers: Amber Johnson (MB, 6-1, So., Mount Vernon, WA - Whatcom CC)
WESTERN OREGON WOLVES
Head Coach: Brad Saindon, Arizona State '76 (22-3, 1 year; Overall, 324-229, 18 years)
Assistants: Leon Blazer, Claire Carpenter
2008 Record: 22-3
Conference: 15-1, 1st
Returning Letter Winners: 8
Returning Starters (4+L): Laura Sakala (MB, 5-10, Sr., 2.04 kps, 62 blocks, HM GNAC); Amy Herron (S, 5-5, Sr., 6.37 aps, 2.71 dps, HM GNAC), Danielle English (L, 5-4, Sr., 5.58 dps, 11 aces); Lisa Martini (MB, 5-11, Sr., 1.78 kps, 84 blocks), Stephanie Beeler (OH, 5-10, Jr., 1.37 kps, 2.39 dps, 57 blocks)
Other Returnees: Sharon Peterson (MB, 6-3, Sr., 1.88 kps, 40 blocks); Jorden Burrows (S, 6-0, Jr., 3.75 aps, 47 blocks), Sylvia Herrold (OH, 5-11, So., 1.46 kps, 2.06 dps, 13 aces)
Transfers: Cally Young (S, 5-6, Jr., Bend, OR - Mountain View & Cal Poly Pomona)
WESTERN WASHINGTON VIKINGS
Head Coach: Diane Flick, UW '93 (196-50, 9 years)
Conference: 13-3, 2nd
Returning Letter Winners: 7
Returning Starters (3+L): Allison Gotz (L, 5-3, Jr., 6.10 dps, 34 aces, AVCA HM All-American, 2nd team GNAC); Megan Amundson (OH, 5-11, Jr., 3.61 kps, 2.89 dps, 34 blocks, 16 aces, 2nd team GNAC); Kari Rice (S, 5-11, Sr., 11.62 aps, 1.92 dps, 23 aces, 35 blocks, HM GNAC); Haleigh Adkins (DS, 5-8, So., 2.09 dps, 18 aces)
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