Vikings Lead Four GNAC Teams In Volleyball West Regional
Western Washington is the No. 2 seed in the regional after winning the GNAC championship with a 19-1 record. The Vikings will play No. 7 seed Alaska Anchorage in the quarterfinals.
Western Washington is the No. 2 seed in the regional after winning the GNAC championship with a 19-1 record. The Vikings will play No. 7 seed Alaska Anchorage in the quarterfinals.

Monday, November 20, 2017

PORTLAND, Ore. – For the third time in four years, at least four GNAC teams will represent the conference in NCAA Volleyball West Regional Tournament.

Western Washington, Northwest Nazarene, Central Washington and Alaska Anchorage were all selected to the 64-team NCAA Division II National Tournament field and will compete in the West Region Tournament, Nov. 30 to Dec. 2 at California Baptist University in Riverside, California.

In an interesting twist, however, the four GNAC team will all face each other in the lower half of the West Region bracket. No. 2 seed Western Washington will face No. 7 seed Alaska Anchorage in the quarterfinals while No. 3 Northwest Nazarene will face No. 6 Central Washington. The pairing guarantees that a GNAC squad will compete in the regional final.

The GNAC had an unprecedented five teams compete in last year’s regional tournament, which was won by Alaska Anchorage. The conference landed three teams in the tournament in 2015, won by Western Washington, and four teams in 2014.

Western Washington (25-3, 19-1 GNAC) rolls into the West Regional with an 18-match win streak, having not lost since taking a four-match defeat at Northwest Nazarene on Sept. 16. The Vikings secured their first GNAC championship since 2013 with a pair of three-set sweeps last weekend over the Nighthawks and Wildcats. This marks the sixth consecutive year that Western Washington has been selected for the West Regional Tournament. The Vikings reached the final in 2016, losing to Alaska Anchorage in four sets, and won the regional in 2015.

The Vikings finished the regular leading the GNAC in kills per set (14.15), digs per set (20.32) and blocks per set (2.82). Western Washington is ranked second in Division II in blocks, fifth in digs and 15th in kills while the team’s .252 hitting percentage is 18th best in the nation.

Northwest Nazarene (24-4, 16-4 GNAC) is in the West Regional for the third time in four years after a season that saw the Nighthawks get off to one of the best starts in GNAC history. The Nighthawks won its first 16 matches of the season, a streak that ended on Oct. 10 with a five-set loss to Central Washington. Northwest Nazarene ended the regular season leading the GNAC and ranked 15th in Division II with 13.37 assists per set. They finished second in the GNAC in hitting percentage (.247) kills per set (13.87) and opponent hitting percentage (.154).

The Nighthawks will aim for their second Division II Tournament victory in program history. They beat conference rival Simon Fraser in four sets in last year’s quarterfinals before falling in five sets to Alaska Anchorage in the semifinals.

Like their Evergreen State rivals, Central Washington (19-9, 14-6 GNAC) is in the West Regional for the sixth consecutive year after finishing the regular season tied with Alaska Anchorage for third in the GNAC. The Wildcats spent most of the season as one of the national leaders in blocking and enters the tournament ranked third in Division II at 2.78 blocks per set. Central also enters the tournament with a .205 hitting percentage, averaging 12.70 kills and 17.83 digs per set.

Central Washington is looking for its first NCAA Tournament victory since 2005 when the Wildcats upset Cal Poly Pomona in five sets. The Wildcats exited last year’s tournament in quarterfinals, taking a four-set loss to Cal State San Bernardino.

Alaska Anchorage (19-10, 14-6 GNAC) is in the regional for the fifth year in a row. The defending Division II national runner-up, the Seawolves tied with Central Washington for third in the GNAC thanks to a late run that saw the team win nine of its final 12 matches. Alaska Anchorage enters the tournament leading the GNAC with 1.80 aces per set while averaging 12.36 and 17.93 digs per set.

Western Washington is 2-0 this season against all three GNAC teams with the exception of Northwest Nazarene. The other three teams are 1-1 this season against each other.