Western Washington University’s women’s basketball team added another accolade to its legacy by reaching the NCAA Division II championship for the first time in program history. Despite a spectacular season, Glenville State University bettered the Vikings 85-72.
GSU played fast the entire contest, suffocating Western with a full-court trap buzzer-to-buzzer. Their efforts resulted in 30 points off turnovers.
Western had kept it close, however, going into the second half up 46-44. The game was neck-and-neck until GSU junior guard and Mountain East Conference player of the year Re’Shawna Stone woke up and fueled a 10-0 run in the third quarter that ultimately put the game out of reach.
The Vikings were led by junior forward Brooke Walling, who dropped a 27 point, 12 rebound double-double.
Walling averaged 10.2 points per game in the regular season, but in the postseason she stepped up her game and dominated in the post, averaging 17.3 points per game.
Western senior guard Emma Duff put a strong punctuation mark on her collegiate career with 17 points and nine rebounds.
“Tonight hurts, but I’m still so proud of this team and all that we’ve gone through,” Duff said after the game. “In my five years, the things that I’m going to remember the most are the little things outside of basketball, how close this team was, and the chemistry we had.”
The Vikings’ journey to the title game began in the beginning of March at the GNAC tournament where they placed second behind Central Washington University.
That performance punched their ticket to the regional tournament at California State University East Bay. There, Western beat the University of Alaska Anchorage, won a revenge matchup against CWU and took out the No. 1-seeded host team to dance to the Elite Eight.
Western then traveled to Birmingham, Alabama, and beat Valdosta State University 58-55 in the national quarterfinals. After that, they took out North Georgia University, which was the new one seed, in the Final Four 74-68.
Western finished the year going 26-6.
On top of being GNAC regular-season champions, the season was filled with accolades on and off the court:
-Eight Vikings were selected to GNAC All-Academic Team
-GNAC Coach of the Year: Carmen Dolfo
-GNAC Defensive Player of the Year: Avery Dykstra
-GNAC Freshman of the Year: Riley Dykstra
-GNAC First Team: Emma Duff
-GNAC Second Team: Avery Dykstra
-GNAC Honorable Mention: Riley Dykstra, Mollie Olson, Brooke Walling
-NCAA DII West Regional Tournament MVP: Brooke Walling
-NCAA DII All-West Region First Team: Emma Duff
-Elite Eight All-Tournament Team: Emma Duff, Brooke Walling
Duff and fellow senior guard Gracie Castaneda finished their careers with a program-record 126 career games played.
Fans were able to greet the team in the C lot off of South College Way on Saturday, March 25 when they returned to campus from the airport.