Wildcats Crush Top-10 Competition For Team of the Week
Central Washington went 4-0 at the Up North Preseason Tournament last week with two wins over top-10 nationally-ranked competition. | Photo by Jacob Thompson/CWU
Central Washington went 4-0 at the Up North Preseason Tournament last week with two wins over top-10 nationally-ranked competition. | Photo by Jacob Thompson/CWU

Monday, September 11, 2023
by Thomas Lal

PORTLAND, Ore. – Great Northwest Athletic Conference preseason-favorite No. 23 Central Washington volleyball is rounding into form after a dominant performance against top-10 competition to earn GNAC Team of the Week honors.

The Wildcats (6-2) swept their opponents at the Up North Preseason Tournament in Duluth, Minn. with wins over Northern Michigan, 3-0, No. 7 Minnesota Duluth, 3-0, No. 5 St. Cloud State, 3-2, and Michigan Tech, 3-0. The wins extended CWU’s current win streak to six matches and capped off a very successful start to the season ahead of the conference slate which begins on Thursday.

Head coach Mario Andaya appreciates not only the results from last week but also the caliber of the opponents played and the way his team responded to the competition.

“The wins were nice, but it was a cool experience to see our team enjoy competing hard no matter who we played,” Andaya said. “Each team we faced brought different challenges that hopefully helped us prepare for the start of the GNAC season. University of Minnesota Duluth was a great host and each of the opposing teams and coaches made it a fun experience regardless of the outcome.”

Central Washington took a crushing win over Nothern Michigan to open its week on Friday. The Wildcats allowed their opponents just a .099 hitting percentage in the three-set sweep, never allowing Northern Michigan to score more than 19 points in a set. The defense was led by GNAC Defensive Player of the Week Hannah Stires as the junior libero racked up 15 digs to go with two assists and a pair of aces. Sophomore outside hitter Scottie Ellsworth and senior outside hitter Ashley Kaufman headed up the offensive effort with 11 kills each.

In the Wildcats’ second match of the day, they took a convincing win over host No. 7 Minnesota Duluth. Central Washington won the first and second sets of the match 25-18 before closing out the sweep with a final set win of 25-17. Junior outside hitter Kylie Thorne led the charge offensively against the Bulldogs, tallying 11 kills of her own to go with four digs and a block.  Ellsworth also chipped in her second double-digit kill total of the week with 10 to go with four blocks.

Central Washington faced its toughest competition of the week on Saturday, taking down No. 5 St. Cloud State 3-2 and handing the Huskies their first loss of the season in thrilling come-from-behind fashion. After dropping the first two sets of the match 25-19 and 25-11, the Wildcats came roaring back to win the third set 25-13. They rounded out the victory by taking 25-19 and 16-14 set wins.

Stires came through with her best performance of the week when it mattered most, stifling the Bulldogs offense with 26 digs and adding a kill of her own for good measure. Ellsworth led the offense once again with 14 kills followed by Kaufman with 11 and junior middle blocker Emma Daoud-Hebert with 10.  

The Wildcats capped off the tournament with an utterly dominant 3-0 sweep over Michigan Tech, allowing the Huskies a minuscule .044 hitting percentage. Central Washington notched up a .267 hitting percentage in the match while adding 15 blocks.  Kaufman led the offensive effort with 10 kills to go with six blocks.

Ellsworth, Stires and senior setter/outside hitter Tia Andaya were all named to the Up North All-Tournament team for their roles in the Wildcats’ impressive performances. Through the tournament, Andaya was a constant presence, averaging 31 assists, 4.5 blocks, 4.25 digs, 3.75 kills and 2.25 aces per match.

Central Washington turns its attention to GNAC competition this week as it hosts No. 22 Western Washington to open the conference slate on Thursday. The Wildcats then host Simon Fraser on Saturday.