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Vikings, Wildcats Ranked In AVCA Preseason Top-25 Poll
Senior middle blocker Kayleigh Harper earned Second Team All-American honors from the AVCA in 2018. She finished third in Division II with a .410 hitting percentage.
Senior middle blocker Kayleigh Harper earned Second Team All-American honors from the AVCA in 2018. She finished third in Division II with a .410 hitting percentage.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – With less than three weeks to go before the start of the season, the conference’s two big Washington rivals are among the top teams in the American Volleyball Coaches Association’s (AVCA) Division II Preseason Coaches Poll.

Western Washington, the 2018 national runner-up, opens the season ranked No. 3. The Vikings received one first-place vote and a total of 1,023 points to rank behind defending national champion Tampa, which received 43 first-place votes, and No. 2 ranked West Region rival Cal State San Bernardino.

Central Washington opens the season at No. 23. The Wildcats, who finished second in the GNAC standings last year and advanced to the NCAA West Regional, finished with a No. 25 ranking in 2018.

After losing the first three matches of the season, all to top-25 teams, Western Washington did not lose again until the national championship match and a gritty five-set defeat to Tampa. The Vikings became the first GNAC team to win 20 matches in conference play and just the fifth squad to march through undefeated. Western Washington led the GNAC and ranked fifth in Division II with 2.65 blocks per set, was 14th nationally with 14.24 kills per set and 15th with a .254 hitting percentage.

The Vikings’ top returner, senior middle blocker Kayleigh Harper, earned Second Team All-American honors after finishing third in Division II with a .410 hitting percentage. Her .376 hitting percentage in conference matches was a GNAC season record. Harper also finished eighth nationally with 1.36 blocks per set.

Junior outside hitter Alison Davenport was one of five Western Washington players with 200 or more kills, averaging 1.68 kills per set to go along with 30 aces, 2.38 digs per set and 82 blocks. Senior Mae Thungc assumed the primary libero position last year and averaged 3.65 digs per set with 22 aces.

Central Washington posted its best season in over a decade with a 23-6 overall record and 16-4 conference mark. The Wildcats earned selection to the NCAA West Regional for the seventh consecutive season but, unlike the first six, succeeded in finding the win column with a five-set victory over Cal State LA in the opening round. Central was as much the offensive power as its western rival, leading the GNAC and ranking 10th in Division II with 14.43 kills per set. The Wildcats were also eighth nationally with 2.53 blocks per set and 10th with 13.55 assists per set.

The Wildcats will be formidable with four returning starters, including three AVCA Honorable Mention All-Americans. Junior outside hitter Makala Swart earned All-GNAC and All-West Region honors after averaging 3.62 kills per set with a .243 hitting percentage and 2.99 digs per set. Senior libero Kyla Morgan earned All-American laurels to go with GNAC Defensive Player of the Year honors after ranking 19th in Division II with 5.84 digs per set. Senior setter Gabrielle Aihara also made the list after finishing ninth in Division II with 11.82 assists per set to go with 27 aces and 2.94 digs per set.

Western Washington opens the 2019 season on Thurs., Sept. 5 at the West Florida Invitational against host West Florida. Central Washington will open on Fri., Sept. 6, at the Capitol Plaza Invitational in Topeka, Kansas with matches against Northwest Missouri State and Drury.

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