BELLINGHAM - Fourth-year volleyball standout Marlayna Geary, an accounting major, acknowledges she has never looked at the numbers on Western Washington University's career kills list.
The dynamic 5-foot-10 outside hitter, also known to the fans as "Thunder," is a lot more interested in counting the sets she receives from fellow senior Laurie Yearout and the supporting kills chalked up by rapidly improving 6-foot sophomore Kayla Erickson.
They added up to an impressive 25-21, 25-23, 25-23 Western sweep of conference leader Western Oregon University before a large, loud crowd at Carver Gym on Saturday, Sept. 29, moving the Vikings into at least a tie for the GNAC's No. 1 spot.
Geary chalked up 16 kills, including five of the last nine points on sets from Yearout for nationally 17th ranked Western (12-2, 5-1), which displayed exceptional poise at crunch time in all three sets for a team with only two seniors in the lineup.
Geary and Yearout, however, were thrilled to see Erickson log the match-winning kill with Western leading 24-23 after Western Oregon (10-3, 3-1) rallied from a 19-15 deficit.
"Kayla was just lights out (with her 11 kills, especially considering so many of her teammates contributed in the kill column)," said Geary, the GNAC season kills leader. She moved into the No. 5 spot on Western's career kills list with 1,181, passing former Viking star Lorrie Post, who last played 22 years ago.
"I really haven't looked at that (her numbers)," said Geary, who figures to soon move past the No. 2 spot, held by Gretchen Haakenson with 1,228 kills from 1990-1993. Meghan Evoy (2001-2004) holds the school record with 1,379, but that mark, too, may fall to "Thunder" with 12 league matches and, she fervently hopes, the postseason remaining.
"Marlayna's not worried about that stuff," said Western coach Diane Flick. "She leads well. It's not just her physical maturity, but her mental maturity and how she conducts herself as a team member."
Geary, who has outstanding athletic ability, agreed her mental game was on display in the win. She plays out of the back row and had eight digs, which is not unusual for her.
"I feel I'm a lot smarter and steadier," said Geary, who demonstrated her improved poise on Western's crucial 24th point in the third set when she scored a slam on Yearout's assist seconds after the Wolves blocked her first kill attempt on that fascinating sequence. "I used to get tense."
Yearout, who logged 39 assists, moved past Katie Robinson (2004-2007) into fourth place on Western's all-time list. Yearout also logged an unusually high five kills, using a quick-flip "dump" technique she learned from Flick and assistant James Suh.
Flick could not have been much happier.
"We played real well and we're continuing to learn," said Flick, whose next home game - Oct. 18 against GNAC contender Central Washington, which recently beat Western - figures to really rock the rafters.
"We're not an old team, but we're a team willing to fight," she said.
Sophomore libero Samantha Hutchinson, who leads the conference in digs, was at her hustling best with 20, helping Western to keep enough balls alive to overcome 20 kills by Wolves senior Danielle Reese. Western also got a combined 13 kills from starters Emily Boerger, Jennica McPherson and Kelsey Moore.
McPherson, a red shirt freshman who also had 10 digs, gave the Vikings a huge boost in the third set with a kill and two aces for a 3-0 lead and Western never trailed.
In the first set, the Vikings rattled off the final three points on a kill by Geary, a nifty cross-court kill near the net by Moore and a block by Moore and Boerger. In the second set at match point, Boerger ended it with a perfectly placed soft kill.
Sophomore Emily Cotter gave Western a lift off the bench with seven digs and three assists.
Yearout was pleased she could contribute in the kill column, since she came in with 26 in 13 matches.
"But it's really nice to have a hitter who can hit wherever I set the ball," she said of Geary while noting that Erickson is rapidly learning the same skills.
Western next plays at Alaska-Fairbanks on Oct. 4 and Alaska-Anchorage on Oct. 6.