Vikings Take Alaska By Storm, Win Team Of The Week
Western Washington volleyball has had plenty of reasons to celebrate lately. They lead the GNAC with an 11-1 conference record.
Western Washington volleyball has had plenty of reasons to celebrate lately. They lead the GNAC with an 11-1 conference record.

Monday, November 1, 2021

PORTLAND, Ore. – The two-game road trip to Alaska is usually one of the more daunting moments on any GNAC volleyball team’s schedule. For Western Washington, it was simply the final checked box to extend a 10-match winning streak that has vaulted the Vikings to the top of the GNAC.

They beat Alaska on Thursday, dispatching a resilient Nanooks team in five sets before topping arch-rivals Alaska Anchorage in three sets at the Alaska Airlines Center, extending their lead in the GNAC standings to two games over the Seawolves. For the two wins in the 49th state that established them as the team to beat in the conference, the Vikings have been named the GNAC Team of the Week.

“I am proud of my team for their focus, energy and preparation during these tough two road matches,” head coach Diane Flick-Williams said. “The GNAC can be a gauntlet when you take a road trip, but we remained focused and gained two very big wins against good opponents.”

The Vikings were helped by two Player of the Week performances from their outside hitters. Junior Gabby Gunterman won the offensive honors after averaging 4.75 kills and four digs per set. Sophomore Calley Heilborn won her third Defensive Player of the Week award of the season with a well-rounded stat line of 5.25 digs and 4.38 kills per set.

Both Heilborn and Gunterman had star performances in the five-set win over the Nanooks. Heilborn led the way with 26 kills, 22 digs and three blocks, while Gunterman’s line of 22 kills, 22 digs and three blocks was nearly identical. The difference happened to be in the final four points of the match, as Heilborn recorded four straight kills out of a timeout to give WWU a 15-11 win in a fifth set in which the Vikings hit a scorching .417.

Middle blocker Chloe Roetcisoender had 10 blocks for the Vikings, while setter Malia Aleaga contributed 63 assists.

Saturday’s contest against Alaska Anchorage was a battle between programs that have combined for the past five GNAC titles and sit at No. 1 and No. 2 in this year’s standings, but the Vikings were efficient and ruthless in a three-set sweep. Western Washington outhit the Seawolves .254 to .168 and had eight blocks to UAA’s two.

Gunterman led the way, recording 16 kills and 10 digs to go with three blocks and an ace, while Heilborn anchored the defensive effort with 20 digs while chipping in nine kills. Roetcisoender had 10 kills and four blocks, while junior opposite Tess Biscup also had four blocks.

With the two Alaska wins, WWU has a two-game lead over Alaska Anchorage at the top of the GNAC standings. The Vikings sit at 11-1 in conference play and 15-4 overall. They haven’t lost since Sept. 23.

“We have a lot of volleyball to play ahead of us, but I am happy that the efforts they have shown in practice are paying dividends,” Flick-Williams said.

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