Vikings need wins to keep slim playoff hopes alive

Marlayna Geary

Nov. 8, 2011

BELLINGHAM, Wash. - Needing wins to keep alive any hopes of earning a berth in the NCAA Division II West Regional, the Western Washington University volleyball team closes out its regular season this week on the road, traveling to arch-rival Central Washington on Thursday (7 p.m.) and to Northwest Nazarene on Saturday (7 p.m.) for a pair of Great Northwest Athletic Conference matches.

The Vikings, 15-5 overall, are tied for second-place in the GNAC at 13-3 with Alaska Anchorage. Seattle Pacific leads by one-half match at 14-3. WWU and Seattle Pacific tied for last year's GNAC crown.

Because of tie-breaker scenarios, WWU can't earn the automatic regional berth that goes to the GNAC champion and the Vikings would need some major upsets to gain one of the at-large berths.

Last week, WWU finished 8-1 at home, rallying from an 8-1 deficit in the decisive fifth set to upset nationally No.24-ranked Seattle Pacific and sweeping Montana State Billings.

Earlier this season, the Vikings swept both Central and Northwest Nazarene at Sam Carver Gymnasium. They hold a 60-39-1 series advantage over the Wildcats and a 27-5 edge over NNU.

Central is 13-11 overall (4-4 at home) and 7-9 in league action. The Wildcats have lost seven of their last 12 matches following an 8-4 start.

NNU ranked No.7 in last week's regional poll and is tied for fourth in the GNAC standings at 11-5. The Crusaders are 16-7 overall (host Simon Fraser on Thursday) and 7-2 at home, winning nine of their last 11 matches. Included among those victories is a 3-2 road win over Seattle Pacific and a 3-1 home victory over Alaska Anchorage.

Junior outside hitter Marlayna Geary (Tacoma/Bellarmine) earned GNAC co-Player of the Week honors for the second time this season and the fourth time in her three-year career as she posted double-doubles in kills and digs in both matches, giving her 12 for the year.

Geary ranks 19th among NCAA Division II national leaders in average kills per set at 4.15 (299) and 28th in points at 4.54 (327). She is second in the GNAC in both kills and points, and eighth in digs at 4.11 (296).

Senior middle blocker Emily Jepsen (Kennewick/Kamiakin) ranks among the top 10 GNAC leaders in four categories, being second in blocks at 1.06 (76), third in attack percentage at .309, eighth in points at 3.94 (283.5), and 10th in kills at 3.17 (228).

Redshirt freshman libero Samantha Hutchinson (University Place/Curtis) is second in the GNAC in digs at 576 (415), while junior setter Laurie Yearout (Spokane/Lewis & Clark) is runner-up in assists at 11.12 (801). Hutchinson ranks 13th nationally and Yearout 20th.

Senior defensive specialist Haleigh Adkins (Puyallup/Rogers) is seventh in service aces at 0.32 (23), and junior middle blocker Bailey Jones (Mukilteo/Kamiak) is 10th in blocks at 0.79 (33).

In team statistics, WWU ranks second in the GNAC in opponent hitting percentage (.165), assists (898, 12.47), kills (956, 13.28) and digs (1,252, 17.39).

Head coach Diane Flick (12th year, 248-69) has a .782 winning percentage which ranks ninth among active NCAA II coaches. She has been named GNAC Coach of the Year six times with the Vikings winning no less than 17 matches during her first 11 years and 20 or more seven times.

The Vikings have lost just 12 times in 117 matches at Carver Gym, a winning percentage of .897, since Flick became head coach in 2000 and WWU went to a SportCourt surface. Overall, WWU is 220-78 (.738) in 38 years at home.

Jepsen was picked to the all-tournament team at the Cal State San Bernardino Coyote Labor Day Classic.

The SPU match was the final home appearance for three Viking seniors - Adkins, opposite-side hitter Breanna Graham (Vancouver/Hockinson), who had a career-high 15 kills versus the Falcons, and Jepsen.


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