By Nolan Baker
As campus emptied out and most students left for winter break, Western athletics had work to do.
Women’s soccer had one of their most successful seasons in program history, but stopped just short of a national championship by a 1-0 overtime loss to Grand Valley State University on Dec. 14.
Their season was defined by their tough defense, which set a program-record with 18 shutouts over the season.
The Vikings’ defense allowed only eight shots by GVSU, while attempting 26 themselves. It was that eighth shot by GVSU sophomore midfielder Gianna Parlove that snuck past junior goalkeeper Natalie Dierickx, denying the Vikings their second Division II National Championship.
The Viking women finished the season with a 23-3-0 record, the second-most wins in program history, clinching both a Great Northwest Athletic Conference regular season and conference tournament championship title.
All three of the Vikings’ losses came on 1-0 games and the loss on Dec. 14 snapped their 19-game winning streak. That final goal was the first allowed by the Vikings in their six NCAA Championship games.
Senior forward and GNAC Player of the Year Karli White said after the game, “We didn’t get one in the back of the net, but we created so many opportunities, so I’m proud of that. This team has given me so much and everyone has helped me to grow into the player and person that I am today.”
For the women’s basketball team, their respite from classes began on Dec. 19 when they traveled to Puerto Rico for a two-game road trip.
According to the Western Athletics website, the Viking women arrived 15 minutes late to their first game against the University of Puerto Rico Bayamón after getting stuck in traffic and being dropped off at the wrong arena.
This confusion didn’t shake their focus. Led by a 16-point, 7-rebound outing from senior center Anna Schwecke, the Viking women won their first game of the road trip 64-48. It marked her sixth consecutive game with over 10 points, a streak that began on Nov. 16 against Azusa Pacific University.
To cap off their stay, Western yet again dominated in a 73-31 win against the University of Puerto Rico Rio Piedras. The Vikings staunch defense held UPRRP to just 12 points in the first half and limited them to only make 20.5% of their shots throughout the game.
The women’s basketball program finished the decade with a record to be proud of, going 213-85 in all regular season and postseason games for a .715 winning percentage. In the 2010s, the Viking women made it to the GNAC Championships on six separate occasions and took home the title in 2013 and 2014.
After a short break for players to enjoy the holidays, the Vikings lost 73-70 in double overtime against Western Oregon University.
Despite another 15-point, 11-rebound double-double from Schwecke, the Vikings only made 25 of their 76 shot attempts, shooting a season-low of 32.9% from the field.
The Vikings then bounced back on Jan. 4 to complete their road trip with yet another blowout, this time at the expense of Concordia University, whom the Vikings defeated 88-41.
The women’s team will host Saint Martin’s University on Thursday, Jan. 9 and Seattle Pacific University on Saturday, Jan. 11.
Men’s basketball saw even more success over winter break. They went 3-0 during the holidays, defeating Capilano University 126-72, Central Washington University 80-69 and Northwest Nazarene University 84-59.
The victory over Capilano marked the 1,500th win in year 118 of Western’s men’s basketball program.
Sophomore guard Jalen Green led the team with 20 points and senior center Logan Schilder dominated with a 14-point, 14-rebound double-double.
After the game, Vikings head coach Tony Dominguez commended his team’s defense.
“I felt like since Thanksgiving our team has started to get into a good flow, which has been triggered by our intensity on defense,” Dominguez said. “The defense has been a focus of ours all year.”
That tough defense helped the Vikings grind out their next game against rival Central Washington. In a tight 11-point win, the Vikings recorded a season-high 10 blocked shots, four of which belonged to Schilder, who moved to 6th place in the WWU all-time blocks list.
The Vikings finished off their third home game with a decisive 84-59 victory over Northwest Nazarene. Western forced 17 turnovers and recorded 12 steals.
The men’s team will visit University of Alaska Anchorage on Thursday, Jan. 9 and University of Alaska Fairbanks on Saturday, Jan. 11.