BELLINGHAM - In an amazingly intense matchup of GNAC volleyball leaders, fans at Sam Carver Gymnasium were treated to a combined 202 digs.
Western Washington University's followers, however, had to settle for a lot of thrills but went without their customary home victory as Alaska Anchorage prevailed in a 2 hour, 15 minute marathon, 23-25, 26-24, 25-23, 19-25, 15-12, on Saturday, Oct. 19.
The loss ended a 17-match home-court win streak for the Vikings (14-2 overall, 7-1 GNAC), who came in ranked seventh nationally in the American Volleyball Coaches Association/NCAA Division II Top 25 poll. Alaska Anchorage (15-6, 9-0) was ranked 33rd.
The tumbling, straining efforts by both teams - 98 digs for AAU, 104 by WWU - left the fans often gasping at the sheer effort involved on "Dig Pink Night" for breast cancer awareness.
How often will you see a team with five players making at least a dozen digs each?
That was the case for the Vikings, who came in with 13 sweeps but lost for only the second time in their past 32 home matches.
The last home loss? Two years ago - to the pesky Seawolves.
Western libero Samantha Hutchinson, a second-team All-America as a sophomore, had 39 digs, well ahead of her 6.60 digs per set average.
She had plenty of support from Emily Cotter (20 digs), and Jennica McPherson, freshman Bryce Larson and setter Taylor Dillard (12 apiece).
The Vikings, however, could not attack consistently and finished with a .188 attack percentage, far below their .305 season average.
The result was too many opportunities for the Seawolves, who will meet the Vikings again Nov. 14, possibly with everything at stake.
Kayla Erickson had 19 kills and played up to her usual standards with an outstanding match-high.432 attack percentage, but she was matched by Seawolves star Katelynn Zanders, who displayed superb leaping skills to match her accuracy with 22 kills.
McPherson and Kelsey Moore had 15 and 10 kills, respectively. Dillard supplied 55 assists -- normally more than enough to win any five-set match.
The Seawolves ripped to an 11-7 lead in the fifth set, but Erickson scored on a dink kill and McPherson served an ace, giving the Vikings hope.
Even so, Zanders responded with three more quick kills and Western scored on only one more offensive move -- a kill by Erickson -- before Jodi Huddleston ended the match with a kill.
The Vikings won both matches against the Seawolves last year, but Alaska-Anchorage has taken six of the past nine meetings overall.