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Sunday, May 31, 2020

Steady as they go: Women’s volleyball on a roll

By Andrew McClain

Another night and another sweep for the Western women’s volleyball team as they continue to chalk up wins in a fashion that is nowhere near going out of style.

This victory against the Northwest Nazarene Nighthawks was especially sweet for the Vikings as they celebrated Pink Night on their home court in honor of breast cancer awareness.

The team hands out pink roses in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness. Some wear pink shirts, some white.
The team hands out pink roses in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness month before the game. // Photo by Jaden Moon

Despite giving up the first point of set one, the Vikings started the night hot pulling out to an early 6-4 lead before blowing the doors off the competition to close the first set at 25-15.

The second set started better for the Nighthawks as they fought well to stay within three points of the home team’s lead. They managed to keep the score close until the halfway point when the Vikings went on a 9-2 run. That burst of scoring put the set out of reach and clinched a commanding 2-0 lead with a second set score of 25-13.

The third and closest set saw the teams battle their way to a 7-7 tie before the Vikings went on a 4-1 run, pushing themselves into a definitive lead. The Nighthawks managed to keep the score tight heading into the finale, but it was the Viking’s who emerged triumphant as they held on to the lead and claimed victory with a final set score of 25-19.

This victory marks the Vikings’ fifth straight sweep, a stat that head coach Diane Flick-Williams said she wasn’t even aware of.

“We try to focus on the game at hand,” Flick-Williams said with a shrug and a smile.

It’s a strategy that appears to be working. That focus looked razor sharp against the Nighthawks as the Vikings’ box score showed contributions across the board.

Leading that charge was junior Kayleigh Harper. Harper mixed things up during the match using a variety of power shots and finesse finishes and at the end of the night the box score showed that the Nighthawks had a hard time slowing her down. Her 15 kills on .600 percent efficiency constituted what coach Flick-Williams called “a super-freak-night performance.”

Western volleyball players celebrate a win, jumping into the air, hair flying. They are wearing white and dark blue shirts.
Western volleyball players celebrate a win against Central Washington University on Oct. 11. The sixth-ranked Vikings swept the Wildcats in three sets to move to 11-0 in conference games. // Photo by Oliver Hamlin

Harper laughed at the term, directing praise at her teammates, particularly senior setter Brette Boesel, for setting up quality scoring opportunities for her.

“Brette killed it tonight,” Harper said. “She’s so smart at setting us up for 1-on-1’s. She makes it easy for us.”

Boesel’s 39 assists for the game topped the Nighthawks’ 29 assists as a team. One more would have extended Boesel’s streak of 40+ assist games to seven, but the sweep still had her in high spirits at the end of the game.

Boesel was full of praise for the way the team communicated during the game and credited the back row with setting up good passes that she could pass strategically to her teammates.

Boesel also gave credit to a trio of her teammates for their defensive efforts. Abby Phelps, Alison Davenport and Aubrey Stephens all recorded double-digit digs.

Dori Greenaway, a cancer survivor and cousin to Boesel, served as the honorary coach for Pink Night. During the game athletes wore special white jerseys with pink lettering that were donated by prominent members of the Western community, Lynda Goodrich and Sara Penley.

Each player also dedicated the game to someone special in honor of Pink Night by giving them a single pink rose during team introductions. Many of those that the game was dedicated to were cancer survivors who were friends or family of the Vikings athletes, adding a little extra satisfaction to an already strong win.

Funds raised by selling pink t-shirts at the event went to PeaceHealth St. Joseph Cancer Center.

The Vikings’ next game will be away against the Alaska Anchorage Seawolves in the Alaska Airlines Center on Oct. 18 at 7 p.m. The Seawolves are 16-4 on the season and are going into the matchup on a one-game win streak.

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