By Kevin Mullin
Coming off a third consecutive GNAC Championship victory and eighth consecutive appearance at the NCAA Division II West Regional Championships, the Viking volleyball team coaching staff announced the addition of four Washington recruits onto the team on April 17.
Losing just two seniors this year, pin hitter Alley Davenport and setter Janae Payne, the Vikings are reloading with a group of recruits who bring a varied set of skills to the team.
Katie King is a multi-sport outside hitter from Burlington-Edison High School in Burlington. Busy through the school year, she earned a total of 11 varsity letters in volleyball, basketball and track and field.
She played a vital part in her high school’s 2017 state title and 2019 fourth place showing, as well as being a three-time All-State selection and 2019 Northwest Conference and Skagit Valley Player of the Year.
King set the all-time school record at Burlington-Edison with 1,397 kills.
King wasn’t sure if she was going to continue volleyball after high school.
“I wasn’t planning on playing sports in college until the end of senior season but I realized I didn’t want to be done,” King said.
Coming from a program with an emphasis on intra-squad connections, King said she admired the level of camaraderie she saw on her visits.
“I love the atmosphere. All the girls are really supportive of each other, they really are a family,” King said. “I thought it would be a good fit.”
King said the level of competition was the most important reason she picked Western.
“I felt super lucky when Western contacted me,” King said. “I like to win and Western is really competitive. The coaches are going to push me as hard as I can possibly go and they’re going to push to win. That’s the kind of culture I want to be in.”
Excited to join such a dominant team, King said she feels her experience in high school has readied her well for the coming NCAA career. She said that although the experience will be a step up from high school, she’s ready to welcome the challenge.
“I think that my high school experience has prepared me well for this and I’m mentally ready for that step up,” King said. “I really love the training part of athletics in preparation, and pushing myself and seeing how far I can make my body work and make myself go.”
King said she is ready to dedicate her work ethic and eagerness to better herself as a player and person.
“I like to work hard,” King said. “I like to step up in big game moments. I like to push myself. I really love [to] serve/receive. I love hitting, but I really love it all.”
Head coach Diane Flick-Williams said in a 2020 volleyball recruiting announcement on the Western athletics website that King’s coordination and physical style of play would be an asset to the coming team.
“Katie is that prototypical multiple-sport athlete who has such great body awareness and a physicality that makes the complex look simple,” Flick-Williams said in the announcement. “She is smooth when she handles the ball and has a great jump off the floor, couple that with her competitive demeanor and the sky’s the limit.”
Camden Heilborn is a setter out of the perennially strong Auburn Riverside High School in Auburn, and younger sister Calley Heilborn, current Viking pin hitter and GNAC Freshman of The Year.
As a senior in 2019, Heilborn recorded 846 assists, 274 digs, 57 blocks, 36 service aces and 123 kills to earn First Team All-State honors. No stranger to prep accolades, Camden was twice selected as the 4A North Puget Sound League Olympic MVP and was a two-time All-State selection.
Coach Flick-Williams said Camden brings important vitality and leadership to the team.
“She has the tools we look for in a setter … super quick, great hands and plays every point with every ounce of energy that she has,” Flick-Williams said in the recruiting announcement.
Calley Heilborn said her sister will contribute a hard work ethic next year.
“She’s going to go after every ball. Any shank pass or anything, she’s going to run it down,” Calley said. “She’s a super good leader. She was captain her senior year for volleyball and tennis. She’s overall super funny and nice and a great person so people will just gravitate towards her.”
Brooklynne Boesel, from Brewster High School in Brewster,was twice selected as the 4A NPSL Olympic MVP and was a two-time All-State selection. She is also the younger sister of Brette Boesel, former Viking All-American setter and current assistant coach.
A defensive specialist, Brooklynne finished her high school career with 1,171 career digs, 1,035 kills and 229 service aces, according to the Western athletics website.
Coach Flick-Williams is quick to laud Brooklynne on her versatility as a player.
“Brooklynne is one of those volleyball players who has done it all. She can hit, set, ball handle … a complete game,” Flick-Williams said in the recruiting announcement. “Having seen her development from afar for many years, I am so excited to see up close how far she can take her game.”
Sophia Carter is a middle from Prairie High School in Vancouver. As a senior she was selected as the Greater St. Helens League co-MVP and was a two-time first-team all-league selection.
In a bi-district game her senior season versus North Thurston, she recorded 24 kills, 7 blocks, 12 digs and 3 service aces, according to the Western athletics website.
One of the things Coach Flick-Williams said she noticed about Carter was her inspirational zeal for the game.
“Sophia has got a live arm and is quick off the floor which fits right in with our legacy of an effective middle attack,” Flick-Williams said in the announcement “She also has a fire and enthusiasm when she plays that can inspire those around her.”
Carter mentioned her enthusiasm as a strong suit of hers as well.
“I bring a ton of good energy. All of my coaches say that I have a lot of energy, I’ll always be jumping around trying to hype everyone up,” Carter said. “I’m also extremely coachable. I’m always ready to learn.”
Coach Flick-William’s team is a fiercely competitive group that also puts a strong emphasis on team camaraderie.
“Diane and James do a great job recruiting good people. Not just good volleyball players, but good people as well,” said Brette Boesel, current assistant coach and former Viking setter. “They value good people over good athletes, which I think is really cool because that’s what creates the family-like atmosphere we have around here.”
King said her current team has a strong bond and quickly noticed a similar dynamic with the Vikings.
“My high school teams were really close off the court and the Western team seems like that, too,” King said. “They’re really a family and I’m excited to build relationships that I’m going to have forever. I want those moments and memories to cherish forever.”