Finishing their regular season with a 21-4 record, Western's volleyball team had even more reason to celebrate with an automatic berth into the NCAA Division II Pacific Regional Championships.
The Vikings came out full force this season, winning the Great Northwest Athletic Conference (GNAC) title with a league record of 17-1, the first time since their three-year winning streak from 2001 to 2003. They are currently ranked second in the Pacific Region behind California State San Bernardino.
A win Nov. 10 against Saint Martin's University; 30-15, 30-21, 30-14, ended the Vikings season with a 16-game winning streak. Western defeated Western Oregon University; 30-24, 30-27, 30-21, three days prior to earn the GNAC title. The Vikings lost to Western Oregon University, who finished second in the GNAC, back in September, their only loss of league play. Along with their league title and second place rank in the Pacific Region, Western is ranked 24th in the nation by the American Volleyball Coaches Association.
“Winning the GNAC was one of our goals at the beginning of the season, but it was a part of longer journey that we have set out for ourselves,” head coach Diane Flick said. “We are very excited to have not only won the conference, but the way in which we did it ...we continually improved with each match and focused on the immediate step ahead of us.”
Senior Courtney Schneider helped lead the team to victory, and along the way she managed to break the school and league record in digs. Schneider, with 2522 career digs, became the sixth person in NCAA Division II history to reach that point. Middle blockers Tiana Roma and Angie Alvord, both juniors, each had ten kills. Senior outside hitters Jamie Anderson and Emily Castro contributed a combined 20 kills and junior Marissa Hill added 11 digs and five service aces.
“One of the great things about this team is leadership falls with many different people depending on what is needed at the time,” Flick said. “We obviously have our captains [Anderson and Schneider] who lead us, but there is also the hub of our offensive wheel. We have a good balance so that one person doesn't have to carry the entire burden on their shoulders.”
Two players from Western were named to the Great Northwest Athletic Conference Volleyball Academic All-Star Team. Roma and Schneider both received this title by maintaining a 3.78 GPA and 3.59 GPA respectively, and being in at least their second year of playing. Additionally, Schneider was named the GNAC Player of the Year and Flick was named Coach of the Year. Several other players receive league and honorable mentions as well.
The Vikings, who finished 18-7 last season, returned a strong team of ten players, including three incoming freshmen. They will also have a strong returning team next fall as only four seniors are graduating: Anderson, Castro, setter Katie Robinson and Schneider.
“First and foremost, I hope our team leaves Regionals with the feeling that they gave everything they had and nothing was left behind,” Flick said. “For the seniors, I want them to revel in the moment and for those returning, I want them to remember what it took to get here and what they need to do to get back.”