WWU volleyball heads into the 2018 season with high expectations. PHOTO: WWU Athletics
Vikings Unanimous Pick in Preseason GNAC Volleyball Coaches Poll
August 20, 2018
BELLINGHAM, Wash. – In a vote of the Great Northwest Athletic Conference volleyball coaches, the Western Washington University Vikings were a unanimous selection to repeat as conference champions in 2018.
Coming off a 27-4 overall record, 19-1 mark in league play and the program’s eighth GNAC title, the Vikings received all 11 first-place votes and topped the poll with the maximum number of 121 total points. Central Washington was picked second with 106 votes, followed by Simon Fraser (91 points) in third and Alaska Anchorage and Northwest Nazarene (82 points) tied for fourth.
Seattle Pacific is selected sixth with 72 points, followed by Alaska (49 points), Concordia (47 points), Montana State Billings (29 points), Western Oregon (24 points) and Saint Martin’s (23 points).
Western is ranked No. 5 in the AVCA Division II Preseason Coaches Poll and returns six starters from last year’s championship run. The Vikings lost just once during the GNAC season, at Northwest Nazarene on Sept. 16, and proceeded to build a 20-match win streak before falling to Cal State San Bernardino in the NCAA West Regional final. Western Washington led the GNAC and ranked 14th in Division II with 14.25 kills per set, while also ranking nationally in blocks per set (3rd, 2.75), digs (4th, 20.39) and hitting percentage (18th, .249).
Senior outside hitter Abby Phelps (Manson, WA/Chelan) leads five WWU returners back from last year’s squad. The 2017 GNAC Player of the Year and All-American ranked 12th in NCAA Division II with 4.93 points per set and 14th with 4.31 kills per set, leading the GNAC in both categories.
Phelps is joined by two other First Team All-GNAC performers in senior setter Brette Boesel (Brewster, WA) and senior middle blocker Michaela Hall (Centralia, WA). Boesel led the GNAC and was 11th in Division II with 11.72 assists per set while Hall was 5th in the GNAC and 24th nationally with 1.24 blocks per set. All three were GNAC Preseason All-Conference selections with Phelps named the GNAC Preseason Player of the Year.
Junior middle Joslyn Bopray (Spokane, WA/Lewis & Clark) returns after ranking 2nd in NCAA II averaging 1.45 blocks per set and senior libero Aubrey (Buckner) Stephens (Colville, WA) will anchor the defense after ranking 4th in the GNAC averaging 5.26 digs per set last season. Two-time First Team All-GNAC middle Kayleigh Harper (Oak Harbor, WA) also returns to the court for her junior season after not playing last season.
WWU opens the 2018 season next week with four matches against ranked opponents at the two-day West Florida Invitational that runs Aug. 24-25 in Pensacola, Florida. The Vikings will play No. 24 Wheeling Jesuit, No. 2 Southwest Minnesota State, No. 7 Regis and No. 15 West Florida to open the season, beginning a stretch of eight non-conference matches against teams that appear in the preseason poll as either ranked or receiving votes.
The home opener on WECU Court in Carver Gym will be Thursday, Sept. 6 against Seattle Pacific. Single-game and season tickets for the volleyball season are now on sale at WWUVikings.com/Tickets.
Here is a look at the 2018 GNAC Volleyball Preseason Coaches Poll:
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