Vikings Deliver One-Two Punch To Win Regional Title
Seniors Abby Phelps (left), Brette Boesel (center) and Aubrey Stephens hoist the regional trophy in their final match inside Carver Gymnasium.
Seniors Abby Phelps (left), Brette Boesel (center) and Aubrey Stephens hoist the regional trophy in their final match inside Carver Gymnasium.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

BELLINGHAM, Wash. – The battle between the No. 1 and No. 2 ranked teams in the country lived up to its billing Saturday night.

In a match that was tightly contested from start to finish, No. 2 ranked Western Washington outlasted No. 1 ranked Cal State Bernardino in a five-set classic, 23-25, 25-22, 25-22, 21-25, 15-12, to win the NCAA Division II West Regional Championship at Carver Gymnasium.

It was a classic grudge match between two teams that have become very familiar with each other. The match marked the fifth year in a row that Western Washington and Cal State San Bernardino have met in West Regional play and the third time in the regional final. It also marked the second five-set victory over the Coyotes this season.

The regional title is the third in Western Washington program history and the first since 2015 when the Vikings advanced to the national semifinals.

Senior outside hitter Abby Phelps made the most of her final home match, finishing with a double-double of 22 kills and 16 digs. So did senior setter Brette Boesel, who also had a double-double with 65 assists and 12 digs. Junior outside hitter Kayleigh Harper connected for 26 kills and three blocks and hit .523 for the match. Senior libero Aubrey Stephens added 26 digs.

Sophomore outside hitter Alexis Cardoza led Cal State San Bernardino with a double-double of 24 kills and 14 digs to go along with four blocks. Junior middle blocker Sascha Dominique finished with 20 kills, eight digs and five blocks while sophomore middle blocker Jalyn Hayes added 12 kills and seven blocks. The Coyotes outhit the Vikings .293 to .241 and had 13 blocks to the Vikings’ six.

Western Washington opened the match by taking a 16-10 lead in the first set on an attack error, but the Coyotes roared back to score five straight points to tie it at 18-18 on a block by Hayes and Amy Armstrong. The frame was tied again at 22-22 when three straight attack errors and a kill by Asia Clarke completed the Coyotes’ comeback.

The Vikings jumped out to a sizable lead again to open the second set, scoring six consecutive winners to go up 10-4 on Gabby Gunterman’s kill. San Bernardino again chipped away at the lead and came back to within 23-22 on a WWU attack error. Harper took charge from there, finishing with kills on the final two rallies to tie the match.

The third set was much tighter with neither building a lead of more than three points. The Vikings led 21-20 before extending the advantage to 24-21 on Gunterman’s kill. The Coyotes stayed in it, collecting a kill from Dominique to come back with two points before Harper once again closed it out for the Vikings.

Cal State San Bernardino took control early in the fourth set and never trailed in the frame. The Coyotes jumped out to the 6-3 lead on Clarke’s kill and extended the advantage to five, 11-6, on another Dominique slam. The Vikings managed to close within two points later in the set, 18-16, on a Michaela Hall kill, but came no closer as the Coyotes held to force the deciding fifth set.

Once in the fifth, Western Washington never trailed again. The Vikings opened up a 7-3 lead on a Phelps’ kill and extended that to a 13-8 advantage on Gunterman’s 15th kill of the night. With the season on the line, the Coyotes rallied to come within 14-12 on a block by Dominque and Mikaela Grove before Phelps fittingly ended the match with her final kill on her home floor.