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Sunday, February 28, 2021

Young guns: A pair of underclassmen helped spark women’s volleyball

If you look at them side by side, sophomore Kayleigh Harper and redshirt freshman Mae Thungc look like polar opposites. Harper’s 6-foot-3-inch frame is almost a foot taller than the 5-foot-4-inch Thungc. While Harper is an attacking player who spends her time at the net, Thungc’s game is defensively oriented. However, one thing unites the two: a passion to succeed on the court.

Thungc has made her way into the starting rotation of the 18th nationally ranked Vikings, who also sit at second place in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference.
Thungc’s first appearance as a Viking came in the conference opener at Simon Fraser University on Thursday, Sept. 14.

Sophomore middle blocker Kayleigh Harper (left) and redshirt defensive specialized/libero Mae Thungc (right) pose for a photo inside the Wade King Student Recreation Center. The two underclassmen have helped the Vikings reach a record of 17-7, good for second place in the GNAC. // Photo by Morgan Stilp-Allen.

“It was definitely intimidating,” Thungc said. “Everybody was older and had more experience, but I just wanted to come in and add energy.”

Despite initial uncertainty, Thungc seamlessly transitioned into the lineup. On Monday, Oct. 31, Thungc was named the GNAC Defensive Player of the Week after she helped lead the Vikings to a pair of sweeps over conference foes Western Oregon University and Concordia University.
“I was surprised,” Thungc said. “It was a big honor.”

Thungc is second on the team in digs per set at 4.32, behind Abby Phelps’ 4.44. Thungc’s average is also good enough to make eighth best in the GNAC.

Harper was named GNAC Offensive Player of the Week for the week of Oct. 31, to Nov. 6, after averaging 3.88 kills per game and a .519 hitting percentage in wins over Northwest Nazarene University and Central Washington University.

Harper has steadied the Vikings this season and was a crucial factor in the 11-game win streak they held until Thursday, Nov. 3.

“It’s exciting, but I think about the game, not individual things,” Harper said.

This mindset has helped Western bounce back from a tough early schedule  to reach a 17-7 record after a rocky 6-6 start.

“We took it as a challenge,” Harper said. “It was good for us to get that challenge early and learn our weaknesses.”

The Vikings host four more home games before the NCAA tournament’s 64-team field is announced on Monday, Nov. 21.


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