No holes exist in WWU's talented starting lineup
Nov. 29, 2012
Interview with WWU coach Diane Flick can be heard Thursday at 4 p.m. PT on KPUG Radio (1170 AM) or on the web at http://www.kpug1170.com/The-Zone/3462345
BELLINGHAM, Wash. -
by ANDREW LANG, The Bellingham Herald
It's hard to find a weakness in coach Diane Flicks' starting rotation.
Only twice all season has WWU's starting lineup differed. How's that for consistency?
There's a reason Flick hasn't tinkered too much with her starting six, plus setter Laurie Yearout, who starts but doesn't get credit on the stat sheet.
"I think the balance we provide is probably the thing that has been one of our strengths," Flick said. "We obviously have a pretty steady player in Marlayna Geary, but we've also been able to have Kayla Erickson step up, Emily Boerger, Jennica McPherson in the opposite position, Kelsey Moore. ... We've had a lot of people step up.
"Western's bench is not shabby either. Plenty role players have made large contributions. The starters simply provide so much balance. No weak link exists.
It's the Vikings' balanced attack Flick hopes will help No. 15-ranked WWU make a deep run in the NCAA Division II Tournament, where Western faces Sonoma State in the first round of the eight-team West Regional at 5 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 29, in Laie, Hawaii.
"I think we are doing pretty good," Flick said. "I mean, we've learned a lot this season, and that's what we're focused on - getting better at two to three things at a time during the week. Once we begin preparing for the tournament, I like our chances just as much as anybody else."
Western (23-3) earned the West Region's No. 4 seed and will play No. 5-seeded Sonoma State after clinching an automatic regional berth by winning a Great Northwest Athletic Conference title.
Flick isn't concerned about her seed, even though Grand Canyon (No. 2 seed) and Cal State San Bernardino (No. 3) finished behind Western in the national rankings. The 13-year coach, who took Western to the national title game in 2007, is just happy to be in the field after being left out a year ago, despite a 16-6 record and a second-place league finish.
"For me, seeding isn't too much," Flick said. "I'm just happy our name is in that eight-team bracket. You have to play everybody, and I like Sonoma because I think they are a fun team to play, so it's kind of nice to open with a team you enjoy playing. The rest of the bracket is going to take care of itself. We aren't looking much farther than that little square we're in."
Starting positions were for the taking at the beginning of the season with an exception of Geary and Yearout, who have been staples in the volleyball program the last few years.
Erickson, Boerger, McPherson, Moore and Samantha Hutchinson elevated their play early, built off previous experience and have complemented each other extremely well during the 23-win campaign.
"I think our balance in positions and experience in those positions has been really beneficial, because we are able to rely on some things and, when we get into certain situations, we have experienced them before," Flick said. "We don't worry how to get out of them, because we've done it before."
Geary, a first-team NCAA West Regional all-star selection and GNAC Player of the Year, has been in big matches and plenty of pressure situations throughout her career.
She's been heralded as one of the top hitters in program history entering the season. Flick said, this year, Geary has played a major role in making her teammates better. They've responded.
"Her play has gotten better simply by focusing on how to make others better," Flick said of her senior outside. "Not necessarily that she's coaching people or anything like that, but she is alleviating tension from others with the feeling of carrying the load, because she is comfortable carrying her load. I think she does a pretty good job of working with players on giving them shots."
Moore, a sophomore, plays opposite of Geary at outside hitter and has benefited from the upperclassman's veteran presence.
The combination of Geary and Moore has caused problems for opposing defenses all year. At 6-foot-1, Moore can elevate over the net and pick her spots on the floor. Geary has a live arm and packs a powerful, devastating swing.
The duo balances each other out perfectly.
"They are two different hitters, so that makes the opponents adjust to two different styles," Flick said. "They provide a really good balance as far as a team. It kind of keeps the other team off balance, because we are so balanced."
Geary has a team-high 370 kills, and Moore is tied for third among Western's kill leaders with 168.
"I think we've kind of had a change of mindset," Flick said. "I think before it was like, 'Let's just have Marlayna take care of it.' Now I think it's more of, 'How can we contribute to mak her ever more successful?' I think we have done a lot less relying on her."
Western has the stats to back it up. Only three players recorded more than 100 kills last year. This year, Geary, Moore, Boerger, Erickson and McPherson have all surpassed the century mark.
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