Tupu Lologo (8), Western Washington University volleyball athlete, bumps a spike from the opposing Alaska Fairbanks team on Saturday, Nov. 14. Western won the game 3-0. // Photo by Alex Moreno
By Nolan Baker
In the last home game for seniors Kayleigh Harper, Joslyn Bopray and Mae Thungc, the No. 4 nationally-ranked Western women’s volleyball team swept the visiting University of Alaska Fairbanks 25-16, 25-20, 25-10 on Saturday, Nov. 16 in Sam Carver Gymnasium.
The Vikings are sitting at first place in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference polls, and were looking to bounce back Saturday night after losing just their second game of the season to the other Alaska school, University of Alaska Anchorage. Both of the Vikings’ losses this year came at the hands of Alaska Anchorage, who are now only one game behind Western in the conference standings with just two games remaining in the season.
“The loss had some great learning lessons for us and some opportunities that we haven’t seen,” Western head coach Diane Flick-Williams said. “We can’t linger on those [losses] too long, we just took every opportunity to learn at least one thing from it that we can carry over into the next match.”
After recording 17 service errors on Thursday, Nov. 14, Western had their 39-game home winning streak snapped. In Saturday’s game they only had two service errors.
“Sometimes they’re going to miss, it’s more about how you’re going to respond to it,” Flick-Williams said. “They did a really good job tonight of being dialed in on what they needed to do and kept themselves focused and poised.”
Western looked determined not to suffer two consecutive losses, especially on senior night, where they celebrated the successful careers that Harper, Bopray and Thungc accumulated.
By the time Western jumped out to a 13-1 first set lead, Kayleigh Harper had already recorded four blocks. In the previous game she broke the GNAC record for blocks in a career with 561 and was honored for her record in the pregame senior night ceremony. In Saturday’s game she finished with 10 blocks and is closing in on her season high set last season.
Alaska Fairbanks head coach Brian Scott highlighted Western’s defensive dominance.
“They’re a tough blocking team, so for us to get some kills off of those line blocks was nice for us,” Scott said. “Kayleigh [Harper] is a beast and we know we can’t swing her way.”
Thungc and Bopray also had standout performances in their last home game for the Vikings. Thungc led both teams with 13 digs, and Bopray added five kills and two blocks.
After the match, Bopray said she’ll miss the energy of playing at Carver.
“Our band is the biggest fan we have,” Bopray said. “The energy we had tonight, you can just feel it.”
With two games remaining in the regular season, the Vikings have not yet clinched first place in the GNAC. They finish their conference season on the road against Central Washington University on Nov. 21 and Northwest Nazarene University on Nov. 23. If the Vikings can win those last two games, they will go into the NCAA Division II Championship with yet another GNAC title under their belt.
When asked about her departing seniors, Flick-Williams was still focused on the remainder of this season.
“I probably haven’t thought about it enough yet, I’m still in denial that they’re going,” Flick-Williams said. “You’ll probably have to ask me that in January.”