WWU Vikings

Western bounces back with big numbers in ‘huge’ win over Central

BELLINGHAM The player volleyball fans have affectionately called “Welcome Back” for four years at Western Washington University was perhaps never more welcome.

Emily “Welcome Back” Cotter made a spectacular diving dig and flipped the ball to Jennifer “Ginger” McPherson for an emphatic match-ending kill in Western’s 3-1 win over Central Washington before a large, enthusiastic crowd at Carver Gym on Thursday, Oct. 2.

What so excited Cotter — who recently saw the hit 1970s television show Welcome Back, Kotter” for the first time — was how welcome the contributions were from all eight others who played for the Vikings.

“This match was huge for us, coming off such a tough (five-set) loss at Montana State Billings,” said Cotter. “This will get us jump started for the rest of our season.”

That begins with Saturday night’s home match against nationally 19th-ranked Northwest Nazarene, which came into Thursday’s round leading the GNAC at 12-1 overall, 5-0 conference.

If 11th-ranked Western (11-4, 4-2) gets nine of the caliber of efforts it received against 18th-rated Central (10-4, 3-3), Carver Gym’s noisy denizens will be shouting “welcome back” to all the defending GNAC champion Vikings, with the support an announced crowd of 719 enjoyed screaming Thursday.

It isn’t hard to show how well the Vikings played, considering they had such a variety of big numbers as they rallied to win, 23-25, 25-21, 25-19, 25-17 and seemed to get more confident and more aggressive with each set.

Senior Kayla Erickson had 12 kills and a career-high 11 blocks, but she enjoyed plenty of help on the attack with 19 kills by 6-foot-1 junior Rachel Roeder and 17 by senior Kelsey Moore, including an inspiring six kills in the final set.

“What was really big was the attack percentage for Rachel (a match-high .415) and Kelsey (.366), which were two of their best,” said Western coach Diane Flick, whose program is now 124-15 at Carver since she became head coach in 2000.

The dig department was even more impressive, with four players supporting All-America senior libero Samantha Hutchinson, who came in with 40 or more digs in three of her previous six matches.

Hutchinson, now No. 2 in career digs at Western with 2,093, led the Vikings with 18 but received, well, most welcome help from Cotter (16), sophomore Bryce Larson (12), McPherson (9) and redshirt freshman setter Kristina Tribley.

Jollee Buckner, a redshirt freshman, contributed six digs and four blocks.

Tribley, a fiery, emotional player who earns cheers, always seemed to be in the right spot as the setter, helping the Vikings to a .259 team attack percentage compared to the .206 average they came in with.

“She bleeds blue,” Flick said of Tribley, who is from Wenatchee. “She definitely plays with her emotions on her sleeves.”

Flick said the opening-set loss didn’t faze the Vikings.

“We realized it was a two-point swing and we could have changed enough points to win. It was nothing insurmountable,” the much-honored coach said. “We played a good team with great energy before a great crowd.”

The dynamic display of digs did not surprise Flick.

“One of our team signatures is a pretty stifling defense,” she said. “Our 16 blocks tonight were one of our highest totals.”

The second set provided a vivid hint of Western’s determination as the Vikings rattled off eight consecutive points to rally from a 15-13 deficit. Five different players contributed kills as the Vikings outscored the Wildcats 12-6 down the stretch, with Erickson capping the display with a nifty cross-court kill to end the set.

Cotter is closing in on 800 career digs — she has 775 — and that’s pretty impressive considering how many two-time GNAC Defensive Player of the Year Hutchinson has in the same four-year span.

Against Central, the two displayed even more impressive teamwork than usual.

“We’ve played together in high school (Tacoma Curtis), club, Western, everywhere, since we were little,” said Cotter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Wed, Oct 1, 2014 at 1:33 PM, ng_blh@cci.mcclatchy.com> wrote:

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