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Sports roundup: WWU softball earns best start in program history

Six Vikings runners earn spots at indoor nationals

Western Washington University's McKenna Crum high-fives teammate Emily Paulson Feb. 17 during a home game against the University of British Columbia. (Photo courtesy of Emma Morgan/WWU Athletics)
By Connor J. Benintendi Sports Editor

Western Washington University teams enjoyed a successful week that included berths to the track and field indoor national meet, new program records and season-saving wins.

Six Vikings will represent Western track and field on the national stage, while the softball team secured its best start to a season in program history. 

Western men’s basketball remained in postseason contention with crucial wins, and the women’s team split its pair of games as the regular season’s end looms closer.

Here’s an overview of what you may have missed from the last week of winter sports.

WWU

Softball

After earning the best start in program history at 13-0, Western lost its first game of the season on Saturday, Feb. 24, falling 2-1 to Western Oregon.

It was the Vikings’ third game in two days, and they were fresh off outscoring Saint Martin’s 12-2 in a doubleheader the day before — including a 9-0, five-inning obliteration of the Saints in the first game.

Western Washington University’s Hailey Rath smiles Feb. 17 during a home game against the University of British Columbia. (Photo courtesy of Emma Morgan/WWU Athletics)

Western’s only run in the loss to Western Oregon came in the third inning on a triple from sophomore infielder Hailey Rath, and she scored the run herself on a Wolves error. Rath finished the game 2 for 3 at the plate to lead the Vikings.

The Vikings held that 1-0 lead until the top of the sixth inning when Western Oregon scored on consecutive at-bats. Western nearly tied the game in the bottom of the seventh, but Vikings freshman outfielder Laila Carpenter was left stranded on third as the game ended following back-to-back putouts.

Western, now 13-1 overall, is still ranked No. 16 in the nation heading into its final games before the GNAC schedule. The Vikings will play four games at home against Simon Fraser (4-7) March 2–3 before having a 12-day break ahead of the start of league play.


Track and field

Two individuals and one relay team are headed to the NCAA Division II Indoor National Championships March 8–9 in Pittsburg, Kansas.

After sweeping the GNAC indoor titles for the first time in school history, Western will send six total athletes to nationals — two more than last season. 

From left, Western Washington University’s women’s distance medley relay team of Emmy Kroontje, Sophie Wright, Caitlyn Cheney and Ila Davis pose Saturday, Feb. 24 after running the sixth-fastest time in NCAA Division II this season. The quartet will compete at the indoor national meet. (Photo courtesy of Emma Morgan/WWU Athletics)

The Vikings’ women’s distance medley relay team of sophomore Emmy Kroontje and juniors Sophie Wright, Caitlyn Cheney and Ila Davis will compete in the national meet after clocking a time of 11:27.45 — the sixth fastest time in NCAA DII this season — at the Ken Shannon Last Chance Invite on Saturday, Feb. 24. 

Junior Kevin McDermott will race in both the men’s 3,000- and 5,000-meter runs after his performances at the GNAC Championships, and senior Marian Ledesma will compete in the women’s 800-meter run.

Women’s basketball

Western (21-5, 14-3 Great Northwest Athletic Conference) split its games two last week, likely costing the Vikings their bid for the top seed in the upcoming GNAC tournament that runs March 7–9 on Central Washington University’s campus in Ellensburg.

The Vikings’ loss was on Thursday, Feb. 22 to likely No. 1 seed MSU Billings (24-4, 15-1 GNAC), which needs just one more win in its final two games to secure the top spot.

Western, however, bounced back to beat Seattle Pacific, 66-55, two days later, behind 36 combined points from senior post Brooke Walling and sophomore guard Mason Oberg. The latter scored 19 points and added four rebounds, while Walling (17 points) had six rebounds and three assists.

Senior guard Stephanie Peterson (11 rebounds) and junior guard Olivia Wikstrom (10 rebounds) dominated the boards for the Vikings in the win.

Western will close out its regular season schedule on the road at Simon Fraser (16-13, 9-8 GNAC) at 5:15 p.m. on Saturday, March 2.

Men’s basketball

The Vikings kept their postseason hopes alive with a pair of home wins last week, beating Northwest Nazarene on Feb. 22 and rival Central Washington two days later.

Seventh-place Western (16-12, 8-9 GNAC) still has a chance to snag one of the six GNAC tournament spots, but it must win its final regular season game on the road at Simon Fraser (6-22, 4-13 GNAC) at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 2. 

The Vikings also will need to hope for losses from the three teams above them in the league standings that are also in contention for the postseason: Alaska Anchorage (19-8, 9-7 GNAC), Central Washington (16-9, 9-7 GNAC) and Seattle Pacific (15-14, 8-8 GNAC).

GNAC men’s basketball standings Feb. 28
GNAC women’s basketball standings Feb. 28
Men’sLeagueOverall
TeamW-LW-L
Montana State
Billings
13-319-7
Saint
Martin’s
11-521-5
Northwest
Nazarene
11-515-9
Alaska
Anchorage
9-719-8
Central
Washington
9-716-9
Seattle
Pacific
8-815-14
Western
Washingon
8-916-12
Alaska
Fairbanks
6-108-16
Simon
Fraser
4-136-22
Western
Oregon
2-145-19
Women’sLeagueOverall
TeamW-LW-L
Montana State
Billings
15-124-4
Western
Washington
14-321-5
Alaska
Anchorage
11-516-8
Central
Washington
9-718-10
Simon
Fraser
9-816-13
Seattle
Pacific
7-910-16
Northwest
Nazarene
6-109-14
Saint
Martin’s
4-126-17
Western
Oregon
3-1310-13
Alaska
Fairbanks
3-134-21

Connor J. Benintendi is CDN’s sports editor; reach him at connorbenintendi@cascadiadaily.com; 360-922-3090 ext. 104.

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