Brette Boesel (left, 1) sets the ball as she’s watched by her teammates during a match with Saint Martin’s on September 8th, 2018. // Photo by Kelly PearceKyle Fang
The Western women’s volleyball team looks to carry its momentum into the 2018 season after achieving a top 10 national ranking last season.
The Vikings brought home the Great Northwest Athletic Conference championship this past season, which marked the eighth GNAC championship in program history.
They finished the season with a 27-4 record, going 19-1 in conference play and 10-0 at home. This led the program to a high national ranking at seventh in the American Volleyball Coaches Association poll. The team was also a finalist in the NCAA II West Regional.
The team will welcome six new recruits this upcoming season: Malia Aleaga from Burien, Rylee Born from Gig Harbor, Tupu Lologo from Federal Way, Kasey Woodruff from University Place and Calley Heilborn and Anna Maracich from Auburn Riverside High School.
Sophomore setter Janae Payne believes the new recruits will be a nice fit with the team.
“I think the newcomers will fit in great,” Payne said. “Not only do coach Diane and James recruit extraordinary talent, but they also find people who have great character and heart for others. We’re excited to have them be a part of the Viking family.”
Payne is confident the team will achieve the same level of greatness it had last season.
“I believe my team will make it past the regional final this year,” Payne said. “Our team goal is to win the national championship.”
As for any pressure going into this season, Payne said it’s definitely there, but the team is doing its best not to let the pressure impact its play.
“I think there will always be pressure for teams to reach similar success, but we try to not let our expectations distract us, since we’re not the same team going into this season,” she said. “We try to work with what is in front of us, which is making each contact, game and practice better than the last.”
Senior All-American and reigning GNAC Player of the Year Abby Phelps will return this season. Joining her is All-American honorable mention Brette Boesel.
Junior middle Kayleigh Harper said the team is using the past as a learning experience for the future.
“After every season, successful or not, we do a good job of regrouping and figuring out how we want to keep getting better as a team,” Harper said. “We try to learn from the past seasons.”
Harper said she is excited to have the new freshmen onboard.
“The new freshmen bring a fun energy to the team, and they really elevate our play in practice,” she said.
During the offseason, Harper said she is working on her individual skills, and the team is still aiming to reach its goals.
“As a team, one of the goals we’ve really been honing in on is ball control,” Harper said. “My only individual goal is to improve my play every day.”
Incoming freshman Maracich is looking forward to joining the hard-working group.
"Everyone is so good, and I am so excited to bring in my energy and weird cheers to create the best bench Western has seen," Maracich said.
Maracich said she is thrilled to join a program with teammates and coaches who she holds in high respect.
"They are such amazing coaches, which is reflected in their talented players and great accomplishments," she said.
From high school to college, Maracich's main goals have been finding confidence in her abilities to compete at a high level. She also wants to be adaptable to her team’s needs.
The Vikings schedule began with the West Florida Invitational in Pensacola, Florida, Aug. 24 to 25. The regular season started with a rivalry game against Seattle Pacific University on Sept. 6 on WECU Court at Carver Gym where the Vikings won 3-1.
Western continued GNAC play with matches against Saint Martin’s University, Northwest Nazarene University, Central Washington University, the University of Alaska Fairbanks and the University of Alaska Anchorage.