Western Washington University women’s volleyball team ended their season with a decisive win against Simon Fraser University at home on Saturday, Nov. 20, moving the team up to the No. 13 spot heading into regionals.
The first set went back and forth, with both teams exchanging intense kills, resulting in only narrow leads for either side.
SFU was up 21-20 when they got a four-point streak which launched them forward, resulting in Western’s second set loss at home this season.
“This was a grind for us; we didn’t really come out with the same spirit that we normally do at home,” Western Head Coach Diane Flick-Williams said. “Which is actually kind of a good lesson for us so that we learn how to grind when we don’t feel quite that great.”
The second set started stronger for Western with an 8-3 lead. However, this was quickly answered by a five-point run from SFU, tying the set at 8-8.
The set remained fairly even, with both teams again trading off points until Western scored six in a row with the final point being an ace served by Western junior Calley Heilborn. This gave Western the second set with a score of 25-18, tying the game 1-1.
The third set had a familiar pattern of constant point exchanges. Western had a slight lead with 20-16 when they went on a 5-2 run to close out the set. This gave Western the lead with the match score now at 2-1.
Western dominated the majority of the fourth set until SFU stole the lead with a score of 24-23.
Western junior pin hitter Gabby Gunterman tipped the ball between SFU defenders, scoring a point that tied the game at 24-24 and forcing the set to continue until one team led by two.
Western got up 25-24 off a four-hit violation by SFU when a hit went off an SFU player’s ponytail close to her head, resulting in the referees counting it as a hit off her head. SFU challenged the call, but it stood.
Western got the final point when sophomore setter Malia Aleaga leaped up for a solo block, bringing the score to 26-24 and a 3-1 win for Western.
The team has won every game they played at home in the Sam Carver Gymnasium this season, ending with an overall record of 21-4.
Aleaga added 45 assists in this match, bringing her season total to 836 assists.
Western’s defense had a strong presence throughout the match with the whole team doing their part to ensure the team’s win.
“I just think it’s so special that we put up a block, and we trust every single person in the back row that they’ll do their job … they bust their butts every single day,” Western player Chloe Roetcisoender said.
The team totaled 1596 digs and 262 blocks on the defensive side of the net this season, both key stats in their 16-game win streak.
Gabby Gunterman reflected on the team’s win and their streak of winning the Great Northwest Athletic Conference Championship four years in a row.
“We had a lot of culture building over time,” Gunterman said. “It’s gritty and hard work, and I think to keep continuing that legacy is a huge honor. I know it definitely means a lot to our class because we’ve got to watch a lot of end products with the previous teams that have come through. I think we’ve always wanted to emulate parts of it but bring our own twist as well;, yeah it’s definitely a great feeling.”
Western now looks forward to the NCAA II West Regionals at California State University, San Bernardino beginning on Dec. 2 and going through Dec. 5.
Finlay Morrison is a reporter for The Front and a third-year journalism student. He focuses on local sports and WWU athletics.