Vikings Fly Past Lewis To Earn Spot In Volleyball Title Match
Kayleigh Harper finished with 15 kills to lead the Vikings to the championship final for the first time since 2007. Photo by Bri Nellis.
Kayleigh Harper finished with 15 kills to lead the Vikings to the championship final for the first time since 2007. Photo by Bri Nellis.

Friday, November 30, 2018

PITTSBURGH, Pa. – Western Washington is one match away from the program’s first NCAA Division II national championship in volleyball Friday as the No. 3 seeded Vikings came back to beat No. 6 seed Lewis in four sets, 21-25, 25-13, 25-17, 25-16, in the semifinals of the Division II Volleyball Championship at the AJ Palumbo Center.

After hitting just .147 in a first-set loss, Western Washington rebounded to finish with a .247 hitting percentage in the match. The Vikings hit .344 in the second set and .341 in the fourth set.

With the win, Western Washington will face either No. 1 seed Tampa or No. 5 Washburn in the Division II championship match, which takes place on Saturday at 3 p.m. Eastern/Noon Pacific. It is the Vikings’ second trip to the national final in three all-time appearances in the Elite Eight. Western’s last appearance was in 2007, which resulted in a four-set loss to Concordia-St. Paul. The win also marks the Vikings’ 30th consecutive match.

Junior middle blocker Kayleigh Harper led the Vikings with 15 kills four blocks with a .520 hitting percentage. Sophomore outside hitter Alison Davenport had a double-double with 13 kills and 10 digs while senior middle blocker Michaela Hall finished with 11 kills. Senior outside hitter Abby Phelps added nine kills and 27 digs while senior setter Brette Boesel finished with 51 assists.

Colleen Wilhelm led Lewis offensively with 14 kills and a .308 hitting percentage as the Flyers finished the match with a .258 team hitting percentage. Elizabeth Hyland finished with a double-double of 10 kills and 14 digs and Caroline Stepfanon added 10 kills. Abby Becker contributed a double-double of 41 assists and 23 digs.

Western Washington had narrow one-point leads early and in the middle of the first set, but the Flyers still seemed to have the momentum that allowed them the upset of defending national champion Wheeling Jesuit the day before. The Vikings came back from a 10-6 deficit to take the 12-11 lead on a Lewis attack error. The frame was tied 16-16 when the Flyers won four straights with another WWU error making it a 20-16 game. The four-point advantage prevailed as the teams traded points the rest of the way.

The Vikings took much of the question out of the second set with a nine-point run, going up 11-3 on a Flyers’ attack error. The run included two Phelps kills and three Lewis attack errors. The Flyers rallied to come back within 12-8, but did not win a point off their own serve the rest of the set. The Vikings surged, taking a 22-12 lead on a block by Harper and Boesel en route to the eight-point victory.

Western Washington used a pair of smaller runs of four and six points, culminating on a block by Davenport and Hall, to open up a 13-6 lead in the third set. The Flyers slowly climbed back in, coming within 17-14 on Alexandra Preuss’ kill, but the Vikings won eight of the final 11 points to close out the frame. Davenport and Gabby Gunterman each had two kills in the stretch run.

Another five-point run allowed the Vikings to open up a 6-2 fourth-set lead. The Flyers came back to within two, 7-5, on Colleen Wilhelm’s kill, but would come no closer as WWU remained steady and consistent. A kill by Davenport made it a 17-11 Vikings’ lead and eventually built a nine-point advantage, 23-14, on Harper’s final kill of the day.