WWU’s Tourney MVPs Are GNAC Players Of The Week

Monday, November 13, 2023
by Evan O'Kelly

PORTLAND, Ore. – After each being named MVP of their respective tournaments last week, Western Washington’s Brooke Walling and Kai Johnson were selected as the Great Northwest Athletic Conference Basketball Players of the Week on Monday.

Walling was tabbed MVP of the Western Washington Veterans Day Classic to earn her second career women’s basketball player of the week award. Johnson meanwhile was dubbed MVP of the West Region Crossover tournament in Arcata, Calif., and claimed his second career men’s basketball player of the week award.

“Brooke puts the time in during the summer with her conditioning and in the gym, and she is such a good teammate,” WWU head coach Carmen Dolfo said on the senior’s big start to 2023-24. “Everybody on our team is excited for her. She has worked for it and has been a good teammate who really deserves the recognition she has received.”


Player of the Week – Brooke Walling, Western Washington

Second-career player of the week, first this season.

The GNAC preseason player of the year put up astounding numbers in the Vikings’ two wins, averaging 20.5 points, 11.5 rebounds, 6.0 blocks, 3.0 assists and 1.0 steals over the weekend. The senior got her season started with a 15-point, 10-rebound double-double against Cal State Dominguez Hills, as she connected on 7 of 9 field goal attempts while adding six blocks and four assists. Walling followed that with a 26-point, 13-rebound double-double in the win over Cal State L.A. on Saturday, coming away with six more blocks and a pair of steals.

“She scored for us last week, but besides that she’s such a good passer, is a great defender and great leader,” said Dolfo. “She does so many different things, and that’s what makes her so valuable always and this weekend. Defensively she’s really disciplined. She doesn’t swing to block shots – she goes straight up, is really smart and is able to read the offensive player well. Her success comes from being in such a good position.”

Also Nominated: Tori Hollingshead, UAA; Emma Wass, UAF; Asher Cai, CWU; Chloe Williams, MSUB; Sarah Lamet, SMU; Olivia Mayer, SPU; Gemma Cutler, SFU; Cali McClave, WOU.


Player of the Week – Kai Johnson, Western Washington

Second-career player of the week, first this season.

Johnson led all GNAC players last week in scoring with 24.5 points per game, propelling the Vikings to a 2-0 record at the West Region Crossover. He kicked off the week with a near double-double, scoring 22 points and adding nine rebounds in WWU’s win over Cal State Dominguez Hills. The junior followed with 27 points and a season-high seven assists in the win over Cal Poly Humboldt. Johnson’s 19 made field goals were the most of any GNAC player last week, and he shot an efficient 70.4% from the floor including 3-for-4 from 3-point range. Johnson had nine assists against just four turnovers for an assist-turnover ratio of 2.25.

“Kai has been really working at being a strong leader, and he did a good job of that this weekend,” said WWU head coach Tony Dominguez. “He led us mentally and physically with his performance. He controlled the tempo of the game and wasn’t sped up. Kai made sure everyone got involved and wasn’t forcing tough plays. He was taking what the defensive was giving him and he followed the game plan in both games, which allowed him to have good numbers.”

Also Nominated: Tyson Gilbert, UAA; Abdullahi Mohamed, UAF; Bradley Swillie, CWU; Jalen Tot, MSUB; Aaron Murphy, NNU; Tyke Thompson, SMU; Trace Evans, SPU; David Penney, SFU; Jason Gallant, WOU.


Offensive Player of the Week – Sirena Peredo, Saint Martin’s

Second-career player of the week, second this season.

Peredo posted double-doubles in each of SMU’s matches last week, and became the second player in the GNAC this season to have a 20-20 match with 24 kills and 20 digs in a five-set battle against Western Washington. Peredo started the week with 13 kills and 12 digs in SMU’s victory over Simon Fraser, while adding two blocks, two assists and a service ace. The standout freshman has found her stride late in the season, with six of her 12 double-doubles coming in the last five weeks, including a stretch of three in-a-row.

“She is crafty and is not afraid to take big swings against a really good block,” said SMU head coach Dan Behnke. “Western has a very good defense that made her uncomfortable at times, but she kept at it. She has really good balance of when to hit hard and take some risk. She knows she has pretty good timing as to when she should mix up her shots. Sirena has done a good job of owning her position. She understands her limitations when it comes to her height, and she maximizes what she can from her game in the front row and the back row. She reads well and has had a successful year. She has been a part of why we have had some success, and it’s exciting to see her grow as a player.”

Also Nominated: Nicole Blue, UAA; Karli Nielson, UAF; Tia Andaya, CWU; Maren Dent, NNU; Brooke Dexter, SFU; Chloe Asciutto, WOU; Gabby Kepley, WWU.

Defensive Player of the Week – Devyn Oestreich, Western Washington

First-career player of the week.

An instrumental figure in Western Washington’s current four-match winning streak, Oestreich put up stellar defensive numbers in her team’s two victories last week. She started with 19 digs in the win over Western Oregon, while adding in eight kills on the offensive side. Oestreich then completed her 10th double-double of the year with 20 digs and 15 kills in the five-set victory over Saint Martin’s. Oestreich’s dig total was her second highest of the season, and she also chipped in a pair of blocks in the revenge win over the Saints.

“Devyn had an overall great weekend on both sides of the ball,” said WWU head coach Diane Flick-Williams. “Specifically on defense she was able to stop other hitters so we could create opportunities for ourselves. Saint Martin’s is a great defensive team and we needed somebody who could match their scrappiness. She’s a good reader of the game, and she kept us in lots of points by taking shots away from their big hitters. Devyn is one of the best all-around players we have in our conference. She does it in every facet of the game, and her block has really improved. She has been incredibly stable for us.”

Also Nominated: Madison Galloway, UAA; Cynphany Henderson, UAF; Emma Daoud-Hebert, CWU; Jennifer Soha, SMU; Kalyn Hartmann, SFU.


Offensive Player of the Week – Devin O’Hea, Simon Fraser

Second-career player of the week, first this season.

Leading SFU to its eighth GNAC men’s soccer title on Saturday, O’Hea capped a stellar regular season with his first weekly honor of 2023. The senior ensured there would be no letdown in a must-win match against Northwest Nazarene Saturday, finding the net and providing an assist in a 5-1 rout of the Nighthawks that clinched the conference title. That came after he scored SFU’s lone goal in a 2-1 defeat at Montana State Billings last Thursday. O’Hea finished the regular season with nine goals and nine assists, and recorded points in all but one of SFU’s 11 conference matches this fall.

“The person who was most consistent in making sure we put in top performances this season was Devin,” said SFU head coach Clint Schneider. “Devin was the best player on the pitch in each of the previous two games, but what changed on Saturday was that we had even more players elevate themselves. He has been one of better players on the pitch all season long, and the team benefits from Devin being at the level he’s at. On Saturday in that kind of game, where you need players to rise, Devin rose.”

Also Nominated: Callum Bryan, MSUB; Jim Wagenaar, NNU; Xander Koenig, SMU; Raymundo Mendez, SPU; Yahir Ocampo, SOU; Eric Bunnell, WWU.

Defensive Player of the Week – Juan Suarez, Western Oregon

Second-career player of the week, second this season.

Suarez helped the Wolves to victory in their lone match last week, making three saves in WOU’s 2-1 triumph at Seattle Pacific. Suarez upped his save count to 79 on the season and ranks second in the GNAC with 4.65 saves per game. The big performance on Saturday helped WOU finish in second place in 2023, as the Wolves narrowly missed out on a GNAC title in just their second season of existence.

Also Nominated: Brian Licona, SMU; Justyn Sandhu, SFU; Brandon Locke, WWU.