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Saturday, May 15, 2021

Vikings defense stifles the Cavaliers

Stifling. Smothering. Swarming. Tenacious. Dominant.

These are all words you could use to describe Western’s defensive performance against the Concordia University Cavaliers.

The Vikings held the Cavaliers to just 27.3 percent shooting from the field in their 68-43 victory. The 25-point win was the second blowout victory Vikings fans were treated to this week after the Vikings took the Western Oregon University Wolves to the woodshed with at 70-39 victory on Thursday night.

“I think our defense is getting better,” Coach Carmen Dolfo said of the performance. “It’s a whole team effort right now. I think we’re helping each other out and so it’s encouraging to see that improvement.”

Junior forward Kiana Gandy led the Vikings in points on the night, shooting an efficient 9-12.

“My teammates did a really good job of finding me,” Gandy said on her performance.

The transition game played a big part in her effectiveness on the night, with Gandy often finding herself in one-on-one situations on the fast break.

She was trying to run the floor and spread it out so they weren’t moving the ball slow and letting them set up in their defense, Gandy said.

“They just did a really good job of outletting me the ball and looking for me whenever they had the chance,” Gandy said.

Senior center Kayla Bernsen also had a huge night for the Vikings, garnering her sixth double-double on the season with 17 points and 11 rebounds. Also adding six blocks, Bernsen set the tone early for the Vikings and was a key reason they took a 31-22 lead into halftime.

With junior forward Tia Briggs missing her second straight game due to illness and starting junior forward Rachel Albert finding herself in foul trouble, freshman Nikki Corbett stepped up big for the Vikings, playing 18 minutes on the night. She pitched in six points on 3-4 shooting, gathered six boards and even had a block.

“Nikki did a great job. Her defense has gotten so much better this year,” Gandy said of her young teammate. “She’s a big body to have in the middle of the key. I think defensively she makes people second guess a lot of times, even if she isn’t the one getting the block.”

With the win, the Vikings pull to 14-6 over with a 10-2 record in conference play. Their next game will come Thursday, Feb. 4, at Central Washington University.

“Central is a huge rivalry game for us,” junior guard Taylor Peacocke said. “We’re going to be pumped no matter what, but we definitely will have to keep making steps from here.”

The Vikings have not forgotten the loss they suffered at home to Central, and will be looking to return the favor.

“We’re definitely coming for revenge on Central,” Gandy said, her excitement for the rematch clearly visible as she spoke. “We’re a little mad they messed up our perfect [conference] record. We really want to go in there and battle them. We want to do the things we know we can do and take away the things we know that they do.”

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