Tough non-league schedule prepares CWU volleyball for No. 10 Western Washington
To say that Central Washington’s volleyball team has had a challenging schedule to start the season might be considered an understatement.
The Wildcats have already faced the 2014 National Champion, University of Tampa, the No. 1 team in the country, Concordia-St. Paul and West Region rival Azusa Pacific.
But Central Washington will have to wait to take a break. It kicks off its GNAC conference schedule by hosting No. 10 Western Washington tonight at Nicholson Pavilion.
CWU head coach Mario Andaya said the strong schedule has helped judge where his team is at during this point of the season.
“The last couple of weekends have showed that we have a lot of work to do,” Andaya said. “We have to make sure we are doing some things better on offense and hopefully we are getting to that point.”
The two GNAC teams come in with nearly identical paths leading up to the match.
While the Wildcats were playing their four-game tournament in Tampa, Fla, the Vikings were also participating in the same tournament, but in a different bracket over in Lakeland, Fla.
Both teams also participated in West Regional showcases to prepare for the upcoming season. Western Washington played up in Anchorage, Alaska meanwhile Central Washington hosted four games back in Ellensburg and received wins over Stanislaus State and UC San Diego.
“Both teams are coming off great tests to start the season, but that doesn’t matter right now,” Andaya said. “We are both starting 0-0 and both want to start conference with a win.”
MORE THAN A RIVALRY
The in-state rivalry between Central Washington and Western Washington started way before Andaya was hired to take over the volleyball program in 1996, but over his years of coaching, he views it as motivation for his team to be great.
“Western brings out a lot in us,” Andaya said. “The rivalry has been here for a long time but because they are one of the better teams in the country, that alone gets us going. We want to try to be the best and also beat the best.”
The Vikings come in with a 6-2 record and are led by their leading hitter junior Abby Phelps.
Phelps comes into the game ranked fourth in the conference with 110 kills.
On defense, Western Washington also features Joslyn Bopray who is averaging 1.17 blocks per set.
“There is no doubt that they have some really good players,” Andaya said.
Central Washington is also equipped with weapons on offense and defense. Junior Shelby Mauritson leads the Wildcats in kills and had 15 in her last game against UCSD.
Senior Sabrina Wheelhouse also leads the conference in blocks for the second straight season. Her 1.42 blocks per set is 11th best in the country.
“We have to be steady in everything,” Andaya said. “They take scoring chances and take full advantage of it. If we are not bringing our best offense then they are going to control the ball and bring a lot of hitters at us.”