CHELAN, Wash. -
By Erich Hilkert, Lake Chelan Mirror, Staff writer
The Western Washington Vikings volleyball team made the trip from Bellingham to try to help those in the communities where some of their teammates grew up. The team spent the day Friday, Aug. 22, touring the area and performing community service. The trip concluded with an intramural game Saturday night, Aug. 23, before a crowd at the Chelan High School gym.
"We drove over from Bellingham across the North Cascades, and then came down through Twisp," former Chelan standout Abby Phelps said. "That was the first time I had seen any of the fire damage. That actually was really touching to me to see how much disaster had happened, and then to come to the center where everything was being donated and to see all of the things that everybody had donated and all the people that were working there to help the others that had been affected by the disaster. It was really touching because it's almost like a team dynamic. It's like everybody just pulled together in a hard time."
Teammate and former Brewster standout Brette Boesel was the only person on the team who had already seen the damage from the Carlton Complex Fire.
"I had already seen it and it's just as bad the first time as driving back two days ago," Boesel said Saturday. "The girls asked a lot of questions and stuff like that. It's kind of hard, but it's an eye-opener for sure, putting things in perspective. It was a really good opportunity for us to get out and do something for our community."
Both Phelps and Boesel join the squad as true freshmen and will therefore redshirt this season. However, at the intrasquad game they were afforded generous playing minutes throughout the five-set match. It was a solid refresher for the team, who only recently came together for practices. The Vikings enter the season as the two-time defending Great Northwest Athletic Conference (GNAC) champions, having received an NCAA bid last season.
"We are very, very honored to be a part of this community right now," head coach Diane Flick said.
The eight-time GNAC coach of the year said she was genuinely honored to attempt to serve the communities as welcoming and generous as Pateros, Brewster, and Chelan.
Boesel echoed her coach's sentiments, saying it was gratifying to contribute community support.
"We had never really played before, so that was nice to get it going," Boesel said. "It was so cool that people came and supported us, but it was even cooler that we got to come down and do this for our communities."
The team raised more than $1,200 through donations and raffle tickets before the game had even concluded. All proceeds went to the Brewster-Pateros Fire Relief Fund.
"It was good for these girls to see because they had no idea," Boesel said. "They knew there was a fire, but driving through the towns, they were just awe-struck, like 'Oh my gosh. I can't believe this actually happened,'" Boesel recounted. "Me going through it again, it was just really cool to have my team supporting me and Abby's communities. It was super cool. We worked all day and a lot of people were really grateful and it was just a really good day."
Phelps said it was simultaneously a thrill and slightly odd to be back at her high school gym playing with a new team.
"It kind of just brings back a whole bunch of nostalgia," she said. "It's crazy to be here, but kind of with a different team. It's been very different but the same at the same time. I had a lot of fun. This is a very, very talented group of girls and we have a really, really good coaching staff. I'm just blessed to be a part of it. The fact that our coach even thought of coming down here and thought of making a difference in our area really touched me in a personal way. I just feel really, really lucky to be here right now."
In an effort to aid in the recovery from the Carlton Complex Fire, the largest in state history, that impacted residents of North Central Washington this summer, the Western Washington University women's volleyball team performed a community outreach project there last week.
The Vikings spent Friday, Aug. 22, helping set up a new distribution center in Pateros. On Saturday, Aug. 23, the team played an intrasquad scrimmage at Chelan High School with admission being by donation, the proceeds all going to fire victims.
Friday's effort consisted of unloading, sorting and organizing. The center is expected to be open for about a year and will serve around 1,000 people.
WWU has four players on its roster from the region impacted by the fire - redshirt freshman Kristina Tribley from Wenatchee, redshirt freshman Arielle Turner from Leavenworth, true freshman Brette Boesel from Brewster, and true freshman Abby Phelps from Manson (Chelan HS).
The Vikings, ranked No.12 nationally in the American Volleyball Coaches Association Preseason Top 25 Poll, graduated just one starter from last year's 23-4 team that won the Great Northwest Athletic Conference championship for the second straight year and reached the first round of the NCAA DII West Regional.
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