Looking to learn from playing the best, Western Washington University was swept by nationally No.1-ranked and defending NCAA Division II national champion University of Tampa, 25-18, 25-19, 25-23, in the last match of opening-day play Friday, Sept. 4, at the University of Tampa Classic.
WWU, ranked No.24 in the American Volleyball Coaches Association Preseason Poll, fell to 0-2 after losing in three sets earlier in the day to No.9 Wheeling Jesuit.
“The difference between us and Tampa is that they play consistent from the first point to the last point and we have peaks and valleys,” said WWU head coach Diane Flick (16th year, 317-87). “That’s what we’re going to do as a young team, but hopefully we’re going to start evening that out.”
Tampa, which improved to 2-0, was led by Berkley Whaley with 19 kills and 19 digs, both match highs, and Marissa Lisenbee with 16 kills.
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“We have to set a benchmark for where we’re at, and these kinds of teams will expose our weaknesses and that will help us grow,” Flick said. “If we learn then it’s great. If we don’t learn, then it’s a wasted trip, but I don’t think it will be.”
The Vikings got a match-high five blocks from middle blocker Kayleigh Harper (Oak Harbor) and a team-high nine kills from outside hitter Abby Phelps (R-Fr., Manson/Chelan). Both are redshirt freshmen. Setter Brette Boesel (R-Fr., Brewster) contributed 22 assists and seven digs and libero Bryce Larson (Jr., Mukilteo/Kamiak) had 11 digs.
“I thought that we passed the ball really well, so that we could run our offense,” said Flick. “And we had eight blocks, which was good for us, and that was encouraging to see.
“We’re really just one or two contacts away each time, so if everybody gives us one or two contacts better that will be a huge leap for our team.”
On Saturday, Sept. 5, the Vikings meet Minnesota Duluth at 12:15 p.m. ET and Wayne State at 4:45 p.m.
“They’re just as good as the teams we played today,” Flick said. “There are no weak sisters at this tournament.”