College Sports

WWU volleyball overcomes first-set nerves to win regional opener

The third-seeded Western Washington volleyball team opened the NCAA Division II West Regional in Anchorage, Alaska, with a 3-0 sweep of sixth-seeded California Baptist on Thursday.

With the 25-23, 25-11, 31-29 victory, the Vikings (22-7) head to Friday’s semifinals against Cal State San Bernardino.

“I thought we really settled down late in the first game and let the nerves wear off,” WWU coach Diane Flick-Williams said in a news release. “We carried our momentum from the end of the first game into the second game and got a lot more aggressive, especially from the service line.”

Sophomore outside hitter Abby Phelps led the Vikings with 14 kills and recorded her 17th double-double with 13 digs. Sophomore middle blockers Michaela Hall and Kayleigh Harper were key contributors, with Hall providing eight kills and three blocks and Harper six kills and six blocks. Sisters Joellee and Aubrey Buckner each recorded a match-high 16 digs.

“Abby and our middles did a nice job today,” added Flick-Williams. “But our unsung hero was Joellee Buckner. She is so steady with her serve-receive, her digs and her blocking. It might not show up all the way in the box score, but it would sure be noticed if she wasn’t there.”

The Vikings trailed for much of the first set but went on a 10-3 run to finish off the 25-23 win before dominating the second set. The third set was much closer, before the Vikings used an off-speed kill to earn match point and Joellee Buckner finished it by notching her fourth kill off a set from Brette Boesel.