By Ian Ferguson
Western senior Abby Phelps made history Saturday Sept. 29, setting an all-time women’s volleyball record for most career kills during a sweeping victory over Montana State University Billings. The seventh-ranked Vikings continue to move through the season with success, as the the win marks their 13th straight victory.
With an overall standing of 13-3, the Vikings’ only three losses occurred at the beginning of the season during the West Florida Invitational against nationally-ranked teams. Western now stands at 8-0 in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference, 5-0 in Sam Carver Gymnasium, and 5-0 at away games.
Phelps left Carver Gym with 10 kills and 13 digs, recording her 14th double-double this season.
Coming into the game, Phelps needed three kills to set the all-time record, previously set by Meghan Evoy who graduated in 2004. The record has been untouched for over a decade. Despite being so close to beating the record, Phelps said during a post-game interview that she and the team did their best to not let this affect the way they prepared for the game.
“I’m somebody who can get in my head so I try really hard not to pay attention to that kind of stuff and just play the game that’s in front of me,” Phelps said.
However, it was clear early on that the Vikings were hungry to help Phelps achieve the goal.
Phelps put down the first kill of the match, which was quickly answered by an MSU Billings kill. The Vikings weren’t phased and Phelps’ second kill moved them up to 3-1 against MSU Billings and the team continued to march forward, extending their lead to 9-2.
Phelps needed one kill to go in the first set and the team knew it. At every given opportunity, the Vikings set her up, hoping for her success. Finally, a teammate sent the ball floating left, Phelps eyed it, loaded her jump and smashed it into MSU Billings’ court, with an answer that couldn’t be returned.
The charged gymnasium exploded, clearly aware of the history that had just been written on Carver Gym’s wooden floorboards. The team rallied around Phelps, dancing and cheering, with the crowd joining in. The Vikings finished out the set 25-10 with apparent ease.
After the game, Phelps didn’t hesitate to pay her respects to her team, who she said helped her to this monumental point.
Along with Phelps’ record setting evening, Western senior Aubrey Stephens set a milestone of 1,000 career digs. Senior Brette Boesel also came close to 100 career aces, just one ace short by the end of the match.
“I was able to get the accolade but I think about all of the people that helped me get there, like my setter, Brette Boesel,” said Phelps in the post-game interview. “I would never be in the position that I am without her, our team itself is so good we just create opportunities for each other every single day.”
Throughout the entirety of the match, MSU Billings was never able to steal the lead from the Vikings, but seemed to rally together as they gave Western a run for their money during the second set. The Vikings quickly jumped to an early 5-2 lead but MSU Billings pushed to keep up with the points they scored, as they were hard earned with long back and forth rallies. After extending the lead to 20-14, the Vikings gave up three unanswered points and MSU Billings was closing in on their lead. However, it was not enough to stop them however, as they finished the set 25-21, extending the match lead 2-0.
MSU Billings put up another good battle on the final set, staying within three points of the Vikings for the better part of the first half. The score was 14-11 when the Vikings started to pull away. The MSU Billings Yellowjackets only scored three more points the rest of the set, making the final score 25-14 and resulting in an uncontested 3-0 victory by the Vikings.
Head coach Diane Flick-Williams said the team was apprehensive going into the game.
“We had some nerves with everything that was gonna happen,” Flick-Williams said. “I think we did a pretty good job of staying focused and playing against a good opponent, the Billings, and so I’m really pleased of the outcome.”
The Vikings head back on the road this week to face the Concordia University Cavaliers in Portland, Oregon. The game is set to start at 7 p.m. Thursday Oct. 4 and will be broadcasted live on gnacTV.