Vikings Top Seawolves In NCAA First Round
Brooke Walling had a career-high 17 rebounds and was one off her career-high with 17 points against Alaska Anchorage in the NCAA Tournament first round.
Brooke Walling had a career-high 17 rebounds and was one off her career-high with 17 points against Alaska Anchorage in the NCAA Tournament first round.

Friday, March 11, 2022

HAYWARD, Calif. – An oft-repeated sports cliché is that it’s difficult to beat the same team three teams in one season. Western Washington made it look easy.

After a slow-starting first quarter, the third-seeded Vikings largely controlled Alaska Anchorage Friday, beating the No. 6 Seawolves in the first round of the NCAA Women’s Basketball West Regional after sweeping them in the regular season.

The Vikings (21-5) advance to the semifinals and will await the winner of No. 2 Central Washington and No. 7 Northwest Nazarene. After bowing out in the GNAC Championships semifinals against CWU, Alaska Anchorage’s season ends with back-to-back losses at 20-7.

Brooke Walling had a monster performance with 17 points, 17 rebounds, three blocks and two steals. The rebounds were a career-high across all divisions for Walling, a sophomore forward in her first season at WWU after playing two seasons at Division I Fresno State, and the points were one point off the career-high Walling set in the GNAC Championships final against Central Washington on March 5.  

Riley Dykstra led Western Washington with 18 points, shooting an efficient 5 of 7 from the field, 2 of 3 from distance and 6 of 8 from the free-throw line. Emma Duff added 16 points, four rebounds and two steals, while Avery Dykstra set up her teammates with eight assists, three rebounds, two blocks and a steal.

It took two minutes for the first points of the game to be scored, as the GNAC’s two stingiest defenses looked for a way to break each other down. With the score at 8-8, WWU embarked on a mini 9-1 run midway through the first quarter on a three from Riley Dykstra, four free throws from Duff and a rebound with a layup at the other end for Walling.

The Vikings expanded the lead in the second quarter, outscoring UAA 22-15. Walling, Riley Dykstra and Duff combined to score all 22 of those points. Walling scored eight points, going 6 of 6 from the free-throw line in the quarter, while Riley Dykstra and Duff each scored seven points and hit one three-pointer apiece in the period.

Walling got her double-double just 45 seconds into the second half, blocking a jump shot from UAA’s Tennae Voliva and corraling her 10th rebound. The Vikings blocked five shots in the third quarter, including three from Walling, and out-blocked the Seawolves 7-0 over the course of the game. Maddy Grandbois paced the Vikings offensively in the third period, scoring all nine of her points for the game on a trio of triples.

Western Washington had a 15-point lead entering the final quarter and didn’t seem to feel threatened over the final 10 minutes. The Vikings took care of the ball, only turning it over eight times, a far cry from the 26 during these two teams’ first regular-season meeting on January 20. Western Washington shot 45 percent from the line, 41 percent from three (7-17) and 85 percent from the line (23-27).

By contrast, Alaska Anchorage could only manage 38 percent from the line and 30 percent from deep. The Seawolves left a number of points on the table at the line, making only 15 of 26 free-throw attempts.

One player who performed well for UAA, however, was Voliva. In the final game of her career, the senior forward led all scorers with 20 points on 7 of 15 from the field and 6 of 10 from the free-throw line. She added seven rebounds and a steal.

Western Washington will play tomorrow night at 5 p.m. for a chance to make the West Region finals. The Vikings’ possible opponents in that game – Central Washington and Northwest Nazarene – have combined to hand WWU four of their five losses this season.