Wolves Party Like It’s 1999 To Team of The Week Honors
Western Oregon got off to the program's best start since 1999 by going 4-0 to open the 2023 campaign and earn GNAC Team of the Week honors. | Photo by Eddie Bruning
Western Oregon got off to the program's best start since 1999 by going 4-0 to open the 2023 campaign and earn GNAC Team of the Week honors. | Photo by Eddie Bruning

Tuesday, September 5, 2023
by Thomas Lal

PORTLAND, Ore. – The Western Oregon volleyball team was unstoppable at the Stanislaus State Labor Day Tournament, going a perfect 4-0 and getting off to their best start since 1999 en route to earning recognition as the first GNAC Team of the Week for the 2023-24 season.

Facing stiff regional competition in Turlock, Calif., WOU swept host Stanislaus State, 3-0, on Thursday before defeating Chico State, 3-1, on Friday. On Saturday, the Wolves put together a pair of strong performances to sweep Academy of Art in the morning and repeat the result against Fresno Pacific in the afternoon.

The Wolves made their intentions clear for the week in their very first set of the regular season, taking the opening stanza 25-16 over Stanislaus State. They secured the victory against the Warriors by winning the second set 25-22 and the third set 25-20. Western Oregon had to work a little harder to defeat Chico State after opening the match strong with a 25-15 set win. After the Wildcats took the second set 25-20, the Wolves came roaring back to win sets three and four with scores of 25-20 and 25-19, respectively.

On Saturday, the defense got a chance to shine, shutting down Academy of Art 25-10 in the middle of a three-set sweep. The Wolves bookened the defensive masterclass with 25-20 set victories and held Academy of Art to just a 0.290 hitting percentage. The defensive edge for the Wolves stayed strong through their final match against Fresno Pacific as they swept the Sunbirds and allowed them just a .135 hitting percentage.

Head coach Kaiao Nahale-a was very pleased with the team’s performance across the tournament and acknowledged the importance of the start in team history along with the long season ahead for WOU.

“From the team dinners, going 4-0 and everything in between, it was a joy to be a part of history this weekend,” Nahale-a said. “Thank you to everyone at the tournament and back home who supported us. We know you’re always with us and appreciate you all for the love and support. We know the journey is long and we are focusing on making the most of every day. We are excited to write our story one day at a time.”

Senior middle blocker Bella MacLellan was a key player for WOU on the net, leading the team with 1.15 blocks per set to tie for fourth in the conference. MacLellan’s best performance of the week came in Friday’s win over Chico State where she tallied five blocks to go with three kills.

Western Oregon was led by GNAC Offensive Player of the Week Madison Hornback. The junior outside hitter came out of the gates firing on all cylinders, notching double-digit kill totals in every match and averaging a conference-leading 3.92 kills and 4.62 points per set. Hornback’s .368 hitting percentage also ranked fifth in the GNAC for the week while her defensive efforts rank her sixth in the conference with 3.38 digs per set.

Hornback was one of two Western Oregon players to be named to the all-tournament team along with fellow junior outside hitter Bailee Hartsook. The highlight of Hartsook’s week came on Friday against Chico State as she went off for 11 kills along with three digs and three blocks. Hartsook finished the week with 35 kills, 11 digs, seven blocks and a .409 hitting percentage.

Western Oregon will be back in action this week for the Mountain Lion Classic in Colorado Springs, Colo. The Wolves will take on host Colorado Springs on Thursday before facing Bemidji State and Nebraska-Kearney on Friday. They will cap off the week against Western Colorado on Saturday.