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Western women’s basketball caps off another successful postseason run, season

Vikings earn second straight GNAC Championship, fourth consecutive regional berth

Western Washington University players celebrate as they hug each other in a crowded huddle.
Western Washington University players celebrate Thursday, Jan. 11 during the Vikings' 100-75 win over Central Washington University at Carver Gym. (Andy Bronson/Cascadia Daily News)
By Mathew Callaghan Sports Intern

From playing in the NCAA Division II National Championship in 2022 to advancing to regionals for the fourth straight season, Western Washington University women’s basketball has a habit of winning. 

The Vikings won the 2024 Great Northwest Athletic Conference Tournament Championship against MSU Billings for the second year in a row, ending their season with a 24-7 overall record and the second-best offense (71 ppg) and defense (59.5 ppg allowed) in the GNAC.  

However, the team’s true strength wasn’t the star power of a few players, but instead the numerous contributors all capable of scoring in bunches and with a willingness to do what was necessary to win.  

Time and time again, Western’s players stepped up when the team needed it most. 

“We lost six players from last year,” Vikings head coach Carmen Dolfo said. “So, it took awhile for us to get used to each other and find our groove together, but I think they had a lot of improvement … I mean, they won the GNAC tournament, which was wonderful, and went to the second round of the NCAA [tournament]. I definitely feel like they did a great job this year.” 

Western Washington University head coach Carmen Dolfo smiles as she greets Brooke Walling heading for the bench near the end of the game as they hold hands.
Western Washington University head coach Carmen Dolfo smiles Jan 11 as she greets Brooke Walling at the bench near the end of the Vikings’ win over Central Washington. (Andy Bronson/Cascadia Daily News)

The Vikings’ season ended Saturday, March 16 in the NCAA Division II West Regional Tournament semifinals against Cal State San Marcos. The 62-56 loss was the final collegiate game for senior guard Stephanie Peterson and senior forward Brooke Walling — both of whom will be massive losses for the Vikings.

Walling, who reached 1,000 career points at Western on Jan. 27, was one of two GNAC players named to the All-West Region First Team. 

She led the conference in field goal percentage (58.3%) while averaging 16.3 points per game (sixth in GNAC), a league-leading nine rebounds per game, 1.8 blocks (third) and 3.5 assists (sixth). 

“Brooke Walling had an amazing career at Western and had an amazing senior year,” Dolfo said. “She was our go-to, both offensively and defensively and rebounding and passing. She really did it all. And she was a great leader for us too,” 

Walling easily operated in the paint and dished out assists because of the team’s capable shooters. Three-point specialists sophomore guard Mason Oberg and junior guard Riley Dykstra rank in the top seven in 3-point percentage nationwide among Division II players. 

Oberg, a second-team All-GNAC selection, was the team’s second-leading scorer with 11.8 ppg.  

Players celebrate as Western Washington University's Aspen Garrison draws a foul.
Players celebrate as Western’s Aspen Garrison draws a foul Jan. 27 during a game against Montana State Billings. (Andy Bronson/Cascadia Daily News)

But it was the GNAC title game when she hit two clutch 3-pointers late in the fourth quarter that her shooting touch was on full display. Oberg went 7 of 11 from the field (3 of 4 on 3-pointers) and scored 17 points in the 54-52 win over MSU Billings. 

It was the game before, in the GNAC semifinals, that the other sharpshooting guard, Dykstra, set the conference record for made 3-pointers (eight) in a playoff game. She also tied WWU’s single-game record by going 8 for 9 from long range, scoring 24 points.  

Dykstra was third on the team in points (10.8), rebounds (4.7) and assists (3.0) per game. In total, four Vikings earned All-GNAC honors this season — both Dykstra and Peterson were honorable mentions. 

“They’re [Dykstra and Oberg] great shooters, they work hard,” Dolfo said. “I think that their consistency in their shooting was great … I think that relieves some pressure off our posts on the inside.” 

Peterson, the point guard, made her impact on both sides of the ball. On the offensive end, she averaged 7.5 points per game, 3.9 assists (third in GNAC) and 4.6 rebounds (fourth on team). Defensively, she led the GNAC in steals at 2.7 per game. 

Another key cog was junior guard Olivia Wikstrom, who averaged 7.3 points per game, 4.7 rebounds (tied for second most on team), while shooting 38.8% from distance. 

Junior guard Maddy Granbois posted the eighth best assist-to-turnover ratio in the league at 1.6, while junior forward Aspen Garrison averaged 9.7 points per game and 4.4 rebounds. Garrison started in all 29 games and was ninth in the GNAC in field goal percentage at 49.1%. 

Western Washington women’s basketball celebrates Saturday, March 9 after defeating MSU Billings, 54-52, to capture their second straight Great Northwest Conference championship in Ellensburg. (Photo courtesy of Jacob Thompson/Central Washington University Athletics)

Freshmen like Ellee Brockman, Demi Dykstra, Jadyn Watts, CC Size and KK Bass all got limited playing time this year but contributed when it mattered. Demi Dykstra was the only freshman to appear in all 29 games and led all freshmen in minutes (11.3), points (2.9), steals (0.3) and assists (0.7). 

Head coach Carmen Dolfo became the winningest coach in WWU history across all sports back in the 2015–16 season. Now, going into her 34th season as head coach, Dolfo has a 72.5% win percentage for her career (689-261). 

Moving into next season, Dolfo said she hopes every returning player, and even the new players that have yet to be finalized, step up and contribute in the absence of Walling and Peterson. Certainly, Dolfo hopes to add more wins to her overall record, but more importantly, to continue to build a winning culture in the program.  

“It’s great to be able to see players develop, not only on the court, but as people,” Dolfo said. “I think that’s something our program really values and puts a lot of stress on, is that there’s development in all areas of their life.” 

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