Heavy Hitting Harper Headlines Volleyball Preseason Team
A Second Team AVCA All-American in 2018, Kayleigh Harper finished third in Division II with a .410 hitting percentage.
A Second Team AVCA All-American in 2018, Kayleigh Harper finished third in Division II with a .410 hitting percentage.

Monday, August 26, 2019

PORTLAND, Ore. – After she helped lead Western Washington to one of the most memorable seasons in conference volleyball history, Kayleigh Harper is being looked to lead the Vikings once again.

The senior middle blocker has been named by conference coaches as the Preseason Player of the Year and headlines 14 selections to the 2019 Great Northwest Athletic Conference Volleyball Preseason All-Conference Team.

Named a Second Team All-American by the AVCA after helping lead Western Washington to a 30-4 overall record and a spot in the NCAA Division II championship match, Harper led the GNAC and finished third in Division II with a .410 hitting percentage. She set a conference single-season record with a .376 hitting percentage in GNAC matches. Harper also led the GNAC and was eighth in Division II with 1.36 blocks per set (163 total).

Harper was one of three Western Washington players named to the Preseason All-Conference Team. She is joined by senior libero Mae Thungc and sophomore outside hitter Gabby Gunterman.

Central Washington, which tied with Western Washington for the top spot in the GNAC Preseason Coaches Poll, placed four players on the preseason team. The group includes AVCA Honorable Mention All-Americans in senior libero Kyla Morgan, senior setter Gabrielle Aihara and junior outside hitter Makala Swart. The three are joined by senior outside hitter Bridgette Webb.

Alaska, Alaska Anchorage and Simon Fraser each netted two selections. The Nanooks are represented by junior setter Cate Whiting and junior outside hitter Lahra Weber. The Seawolves are represented by sophomore opposite Eve Stephens and senior outside hitter Vanessa Hayes. Making the team for Simon Fraser is junior setter Julia Tays and senior outside hitter Betsie de Beer.

Rounding out the squad is Seattle Pacific senior outside hitter Gabby Oddo. She is the first three-time Preseason All-Conference Team selection (the squad was first selected in 2017).

Of the 14 preseason honorees, eight were First Team All-GNAC selections in 2018 while two others were honorable mentions. Three of the 14, Harper, Morgan and Swart, were unanimous selections of the conference’s 11 head coaches.

Thungc was a depended upon defensive specialist for the Vikings last year and thrived, averaging 3.65 digs per set to go along with 27 aces. During the postseason, Thungc averaged 3.91 digs per set. Gunterman surged in the second half of her freshman season and was a key contributor off the bench during the Vikings’ playoff run. She finished the season averaging 2.18 kills and 1.03 digs per set with 48 blocks.

Central Washington’s Morgan was named the GNAC Defensive Player of the Year after she led the conference and finished ranked 19th in Division II with 5.84 digs per set. She also led the Wildcats with 28 aces. Aihara was critical in the Wildcats’ success offensively. She finished second in the GNAC and ninth in Division II with 11.82 assists per set while also accumulating 26 aces and a .344 hitting percentage.

Swart finished third in the GNAC with 3.94 kills per set to go with a .243 hitting percentage and 58 blocks. She was one of three Central Washington players to finish with 200 or more total kills. Webb finished fifth in the GNAC with a .341 hitting percentage and 1.12 blocks per set (84 total). She averaged 2.23 kills per set.

Whiting earned First Team All-GNAC honors after she finished fifth in the conference with 9.97 assists per set to go along with 93 kills, 51 blocks and a .273 hitting percentage. She was named the AVCA Division II Player of the Week on October 9 after compiling 75 assists, 10 blocks, 12 kills and 20 digs in a pair of wins over Saint Martin’s and Seattle Pacific. Weber led the Nanooks and was fourth in the GNAC with 3.61 kills per set.

Stephens, the 2018 GNAC Freshman of the Year, finished sixth in the league with a .330 hitting percentage and ranked eighth with 3.18 kills per set. She was the AVCA Division II Player of the Week on Sept. 18 after she finished with 55 kills, eight blocks and a .247 hitting percentage in wins over Alaska, Rocky Mountain and Montana State Billings. Hayes was a key cog in the UAA offense, averaging 2.56 kills and 1.25 digs per set.

Tays served as Simon Fraser’s primary setter in 2018, ranking third in the GNAC and 31st in Division II with 10.83 assists per set. She also finished with 22 aces, 2.40 digs per set and 24 blocks. One of three SFU players to start in 20 or more matches, de Beer averaged 2.82 kills and 2.26 digs per set while amassing 49 blocks and 16 aces.

Oddo led Seattle Pacific and ranked fifth in the GNAC with 3.48 kills per set. She finished the year with a .202 hitting percentage and 3.11 digs per set to go with 33 aces and 38 blocks.

Western Washington and Central Washington were the co-favorites in the GNAC Preseason Coaches Poll, with both teams earning 114 points. The Vikings were ranked No. 3 in the AVCA Division II Preseason Coaches Poll while the Wildcats were ranked No. 23.

Alaska Anchorage, Saint Martin’s and Western Washington will open the 2019 season for the GNAC on Thursday, September 5 while the remaining eight teams open on Friday, September 6. Western Oregon and Concordia will open conference play in Portland on Tuesday, September 17.

Preseason Player of the Year: Kayleigh Harper, Western Washington  
Name School Pos. Ht. Yr. Hometown (Previous School)
*@ Kayleigh Harper Western Washington MB 6-3 Sr. Oak Harbor, Wash. (Oak Harbor)
*@ Kyla Morgan Central Washington L 5-4 Sr. Graham, Wash. (Bethel)
@ Eve Stephens Alaska Anchorage OPP 6-1 So. Palmer, Alaska (Colony)
*@ Makala Swart Central Washington OH 6-1 Jr. Naches Valley, Wash. (Naches)
@ Cate Whiting Alaska S 5-10 Jr. Rapid City, S.D. (Rapid City Stevens)
@ Gabrielle Aihara Central Washington S 5-6 Sr. Newberg, Ore. (Newberg)
+#@ Gabby Oddo Seattle Pacific OH 5-9 Sr. Alta Loma, Calif. (Alta Loma)
@ Lahra Weber Alaska OH 5-10 Jr. Berlin, Germany (Berlin Brandenberger SC)
Vanessa Hayes Alaska Anchorage OH 5-11 Sr. Salem, Ore. (McNary)
+$ Julia Tays Simon Fraser S 5-10 Jr. Winnipeg, Man. (St. Mary’s Academy)
Betsie de Beer Simon Fraser OH 6-1 Sr. West Vancouver, B.C. (West Vancouver)
Gabby Gunterman Western Washington OH 5-10 So. Lake Stevens, Wash. (Lake Stevens)
Mae Thungc Western Washington L/DS 5-4 Sr. Kent, Wash. (Kentridge)
$ Bridgette Webb Central Washington OH 6-2 Sr. Yakima, Wash. (West Valley)


* - Unanimous Selection
+ - 2018 Preseason All-Conference Selection
# - 2017 Preseason All-Conference Selection
@ - 2018 First Team All-Conference Selection
$ - 2018 Honorable Mention All-Conference Selection