A courageous comeback fell short as Western Washington University lost to Cal State San Bernardino, 25-21, 25-19, 22-25, 25-23, in the first match of the NCAA Division II West Regional opening round between two nationally ranked teams on Thursday, Nov. 20, at Johnson Sports Center on the campus of host Northwest Nazarene University.
The Vikings, the No. 3 seed and rated No. 15 in the latest American Volleyball Coaches Association NCAA II Coaches Top 25 Poll, ended their season 21-7.
CSUSB, the No. 6 seed and ranked No. 22 nationally, improved to 21-6.
Down two sets and trailing 10-7 in the third, WWU used a 9-3 run to take a 16-13 lead and won the set by that same three-point margin. The Vikings were ahead 20-15 in the fourth set before CSUSB closed out the match with a 10-3 run.
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“We just got more aggressive and we won the serve and pass game better,” WWU coach Diane Flick said in a news release of the rally. “But in games one and two and the end of the fourth we lost the serve-pass game and we have to have that for us to play well.”
WWU outside hitter Rachel Roeder had a match-high 20 kills. That was second only to her career-high 24 in the Vikings’ five-set loss to CSUSB on Sept. 6 at the Central Washington Wildcat Invitational. Roeder had six kills in the third set and eight in the fourth.
Middle blocker Kayla Erickson contributed 13 kills and four blocks for WWU, and libero Samantha Hutchinson, the national leader in digs per set, had a match-high 22 digs.
Four CSUSB players had double-figure kills, led by Alexandra Torline with 18. Tori May had 15, Kaitlyn Christner 14 and Brenna McIntosh 11.
Christner also had 17 digs and and Arielle McCullough contributed 22.
CSUSB had 10 blocks to five for WWU. May had one block solo and four assists, McIntosh two solos and three assists and Christner four assists.
WWU never led in losing the first two sets. There were 10 ties in the first, the last at 20-20 before CSUSB ended it with a 5-1 burst.
The match was the last for five Vikings seniors — outside hitter Emily Cotter, setter Taylor Dillard, Erickson, Hutchinson and outside hitter Kelsey Moore.
“It was a good season,” Flick said. “We carried a heavy burden of expectations this year, so we did a good job weathering those, but we also succumbed to a lot of those pressures. Twenty-plus wins is a great season, it’s just disappointing on how it ended.”
Hutchinson finished second among WWU and Great Northwest Athletic Conference leaders in career digs with 2,438 (6.61 avg. per set), trailing only former Viking Courtney Schneider (2004-07) at 2,695.
Erickson placed 10th among school career leaders in kills with 1,024, and was second all-time in both WWU and GNAC history in career attack percentage at .340.