(MSUB Athletics release)
BILLINGS – The Yellowjackets mustered a strong third set but still fell 3-0 to second ranked Western Washington University Thursday night at Alterowitz Gymnasium. After the Vikings efficiently won the first two sets 25-12 and 25-12, the Yellowjackets desperately clawed back in the third but came up short of their goal 25-22.
The Vikings outhit the Yellowjackets in the match .347 to .118 and three players recorded double-digit kills for Western Washington. The most effective of the three was Michaela Hall, who put away 14 kills and hit .522 for WWU. Kayleigh Harper and Abby Phelps were also dominant with 12 kills apiece. Defensively, Phelps led the field with 17 digs. The Vikings also out blocked MSU Billings 14-6.
“WWU is a very solid team,” MSUB head coach Casey Williams said after the match. “They made us work for every point tonight. We struggled to get started but found some rhythm in the third set. We’re looking forward to getting back out on the court against SFU Saturday.”
The Yellowjackets struggled to produce offense through sets one and two but began finding more kills in the third. Maddi Vigil led the team with six kills and Bayli Monck, Miranda McConnell, and Skylar Reed each recorded four.
After digging out 31 in the Yellowjackets last match against Rocky Mountain College, Izela Alvarez posted 16 digs against Western Washington. Kylee Clarke narrowly missed a double-double at setter and finished with 14 assists and nine digs.
The Vikings grabbed a quick lead in the opening set 6-3 to put the Yellowjackets back on their heels and slowly expanded to take control 25-12. It was a similar start in the second, with WWU going ahead 7-1, then carrying the lead to another 25-12 score.
The Yellowjackets’ quality of play raised in the third set, causing the lead to change hands five times before Western Washington pulled away 25-22. MSUB last tied the score at 22-22 but back-to-back kills by Hall and Phelps gave the Vikings their first match point. Then another attack by Phelps went off the hands of Alvarez and the ball was too far behind the court for Kylee Clarke to make a diving save attempt.
Western Washington (21-3, 16-0) clinched at least a share of the regular season Great Northwest Athletic Conference Championship with its’ win over MSUB Thursday night. The Vikings have won 21 straight matches and are behind just Concordia St. Paul in the NCAA Division II national rankings. Hall also recorded her 400th career block in the opening set in Billings.
The Yellowjackets (11-14, 5-10 GNAC) have five matches remaining in 2018 (three home, two away) and still have a chance to finish above the .500 mark overall on the season.
UP NEXT: The Yellowjackets play again Saturday October 27 at 7 p.m. in Billings against Simon Fraser University (10-11, 7-8 GNAC). Next week, MSUB is on the road for matches against Central Washington and Northwest Nazarene. The final home match of the regular season for the ‘Jackets is Saturday November 10 at 2 p.m.
THE BUZZ: Katie Campbell earned St. Vincent Healthcare player of the match for the Yellowjackets. Campbell hit .333 in the match and added a single block assist…Montana State Billings fell to 1-26 all-time against Western Washington University. MSUB last won in September, 2014 at home.