Western leads GNAC, ranked No.15 nationally
Sept. 21, 2010
BELLINGHAM, Wash. - Leading the conference standings and moving up three spots in the national poll, the Western Washington University volleyball team travels to Alaska this week, meeting Alaska Fairbanks on Thursday (7 p.m. AT) and defending league champion Alaska Anchorage on Saturday (7 p.m. AT) in a pair of Great Northwest Athletic Conference matches.
The Vikings, voted the league's preseason favorite by the GNAC coaches and ranked No.15 in this week's American Volleyball Coaches Association/NCAA Division II Top 25 Poll, tops the conference with a perfect 4-0 record and is 7-1 overall.
"I definitely like our fast start, but we're still in the mode of having to learn every day," said WWU coach Diane Flick (11th year, 220-61), whose 78.3 winning percentage ranks ninth among NCAA II active coaches.
"In the GNAC, we face a different challenge each weekend, and this time it's going on a long road trip and facing two quality teams. Every league win is going to be important, and the key (to winning a league title) is to hold home court and take some road games."
Western ran its winning streak to four last week with home court sweeps over Saint Martin's, a match that took just an hour to complete, and Western Oregon.
Middle blocker Emily Jepsen (Jr., Kennewick/Kamiakin) and opposite-side hitter Kathryn Mertens (Sr., Olympia) combined to hit for a .446 percentage in the two wins. Jepsen had 25 kills and hit .468 (25-3-47) and Mertens had 18 kills in 36 attempts. Jepson also was credited with seven blocks.
Jepsen ranks second among GNAC point leaders (4.41 avg.) and leads the league in blocks with 35 (1.21). She is third in service aces with 11 (0.38) and fifth in both kills with 94 (3.24) and attack percentage at .281.
Outside hitter Megan Amundson (Sr., Stanwood) tops the conference in aces with a 0.42 average per set (10).
Setter Kari Rice (Sr., Toppenish/Eisenhower) is averaging 10.93 assists, second in the GNAC and 11th nationally.
Libero Allison Gotz (Sr., Bothell/Archbishop Murphy) is second among league leaders in digs with 165 (5.69). Her four-year career total of 1,409 ranks third among WWU leaders. She trails just Courtney Schneider (2,695, 2004-07) and Nicola Parker (1,435, 2000-03), both All-Americans.
Mertens ranks third among GNAC leaders in hitting percentage (.295) and outside hitter Marlayna Geary (So., Tacoma/Bellarmine Prep) is sixth in kills (3.21).
Gotz ranks 12th nationally in digs and Jepsen 17th in blocks.
Western opened its season by winning three of four matches at the GNAC Challenge Tournament, two of those victories being over Top 10 rated teams. The Vikings defeated No.8 UC San Diego (3-1), No.10 Metro State (3-0) and Humboldt State (3-0), with their only loss to No.2 Cal State San Bernardino (3-0).
Jepsen earned all-tourney and co-GNAC Player of the Week honors for her performance.
Alaska Fairbanks, which upset UAA in four sets Saturday, snapping the Seawolves' nine-match home winning streak, is 4-5 overall (1-3 at home) and 2-1 in league play after opening the season with losses in four of six non-conference matches. The Nanooks are led by Tereza Bendlova, who is averaging 3.89 kills and 2.74 digs.
Alaska Anchorage, which plays host to Simon Fraser on Thursday and was ranked No.23 in the AVCA preseason poll, has lost three of its last four matches after a 5-2 start during which it swept second-ranked Cal State San Bernardino. The Seawolves, 6-5 overall and 1-2 GNAC, are paced by Jackie Mathisen (3.09 kills, 2.58 digs), McKenzie Moss (3.32 kills, 3.16 digs) and Rubyn Burton (1.12 blocks, 3.00 kills, 2.31 digs).
Returning to the Alaska Anchorage lineup against Alaska Fairbanks after missing eight matches with a sprained ankle was all-star middle blocker Cortney Lundberg.
The Vikings have posted three consecutive victories over Alaska Fairbanks and are 17-1 in the last nine seasons and 28-6 overall.
Western, which leads the GNAC with a .219 kill percentage, holds a 23-9 series advantage over Alaska Anchorage, losing both meetings last year after 17 straight wins.
Since the GNAC began in 2001, the Vikings have won 86.9 percent of their league matches (139-21), taking conference titles in 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2007.
Western is 205-77 (.727) at Carver Gym in 37 seasons in that facility. The Vikings are 90-11 (.891) at home since going to a Sport Court surface in 2000, four of those setbacks coming last season.
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