By Samuel Biehn
Vikings outside hitter Abby Phelps scored her way into the record books as eighth-ranked Western volleyball extended their win streak to 13 games with a 3-1 victory over the University of Alaska Anchorage at Sam Carver Gymnasium, Thursday, Nov. 2.
The Vikings now stand at 21-3 overall, 15-1 in Great Northwest Athletic Conference play and remain undefeated at home with a 8-0 record.
Phelps led the way for Western on offense, finishing the game with 19 kills, while the Vikings were bolstered on defense by a game-high 8 blocks from junior middle blocker Michaela Hall. Opposite Joellee Buckner also pitched in a solid performance, finishing with 15 kills.
Little did Phelps know, she also achieved a milestone.
Phelps was honored following the victory for achieving the milestone of 1,000 career kills and digs. She is just the fourth player to reach that mark in Western history and only the 14th player ever in the GNAC.
“I’m a little bit in shock right now,” Phelps said. “I feel really honored and really blessed to be a part of this team. That is a team award, 100 percent.”
Hall, who is Phelps’ roommate, spoke highly of her teammate and her achievement.
“It’s amazing,” Hall said. “She deserves it, she is one of the best people I have ever met. I am super honored to play with her every day.”
However, the win didn’t come easy for the Vikings.
Throughout the game, the Vikings were consistently challenged. In the third set and the beginning of the fourth, the Seawolves always seemed to be a step in front. Western coach Diane Flick-Williams said the team just had to make it easier on themselves.
“We got tentative, we started questioning our game plan,” Flick-Williams said.
However, Phelps said the Vikings’ confidence didn’t waver.
“Even though we did lose that third set, the talk on the bench going into the fourth set was still [that] we’re staying present, we’re staying in the next 10 seconds,” Phelps said.
After losing close in the third set 25-23, the Vikings pulled away in the fourth set to seal the victory with a 25-20 win.
The Vikings played tough around the net picking up hard-to-earn points. The team finished the game with 13 blocks, helping to pave the way for a victory.
Hall said blocking was a point of emphasis in practice this week for the Vikings.
“We’re a very detail-oriented team,” Hall said. “So all those details, blocker against blocker, hitter against hitter, it just all built up to tonight.”
Flick-Williams said her team needed to reemphasize on playing with power, something that the team focuses on.
“[Blocking has] been a focus of ours since last January,” Flick-Williams said. “We needed to become a better blocking team. We changed our technique in it, we changed our system in it and it’s starting to pay dividends.”
For Western, the dividends were a hard-fought victory. To Phelps, competition comes naturally to these Vikings.
“We have to compete every single day,” Phelps said. “We’re fortunate enough to be surrounded by teammates who are also really good.”
Phelps said Flick-Williams, “makes everything a competition.”
With the success of the team and one of their leaders in Phelps, the Vikings will have to see where their desire for competition takes them next. For Flick-Williams, it’s all about keeping her team on schedule.
“We just want to keep playing our game,” Flick-Williams said. “Part of where we unraveled was getting a little undisciplined in long rallies. I think we need to shore that up a little bit.”
The Vikings will try to remain undefeated at home and pick up their 14th straight victory on Saturday, Nov. 4, at 7 p.m., against Alaska Fairbanks at Carver Gym.