The Seattle Pacific volleyball team (11-8, 7-4 GNAC) earned victory No. 500 on Thursday on a huge stage — Carver Gym at Western Washington, which was ranked No. 8 at the time.
“Being one win away from 500, that was an extra motivator for the team,” head coach Chris Johnson said. “I told the team that it’s gonna happen somewhere at some time, but it’d be really cool if it went down at Western Washington.”
The Vikings are the Falcons’ top rival, so beating them on the road and for win No. 500 meant a lot to the team.
“We haven’t been more excited to win a game all season,” junior middle blocker Madi Cavell said.
The Falcons lost to WWU in three straight sets earlier in the year at home, so they wanted to beat them on the road to complete their revenge. It was also the first time the senior class beat WWU on the road.
Cavell led the way with a career-high 22 kills, including one that won the match. The career high kills didn’t last long, though, as Cavell had 24 against Simon Fraser in a win on Saturday.
The key to beating WWU came in a lineup change that Johnson made the day before the match.
Freshman outside hitter Lexi Biondi made her first start based on something Johnson had seen in practice earlier that week.
“We changed the lineup based on statistics,” Johnson said. “We started Lexi Biondi on the outside and had Kendall [Langdon] as our main setter.”
The team usually plays with two setters, but senior Sarah Biondi, Lexi Biondi’s older cousin, was sick for most of the week, and some tweaks were made to the lineup.
“I was nervous leading up to the game, but once the game started, the nerves went away,” Lexi Biondi said about making her first career start.
The team didn’t waver at all with the new lineup, and even had high praise for the freshman.
“We can’t talk enough about how well Lexi has played,” Langdon said. “She’s been playing really smart in games and as a setter. I know she’s gonna find a way to put the ball in the court.”
Langdon had a career game herself as she put up a career-high 52 assists, beating her old career high of 27.
Even though the sets were close, the Falcons dominated most of the game.
After winning the first set 27-25, they lost the second set 25-18 but recovered well.
They won the final two sets 25-22 and 25-23.
Being in control of the game helped take the fans out of the game, as well. The Falcons never gave them something to cheer about.
“It was huge for us to be able to take the fans out of the game, especially in the second half when we were able to put [WWU] away,” Cavell said.
The team used the momentum from this game to power past SFU, 3-1.
They are also looking to use this game as motivation for the rest of the year, as well.
“After beating Western, we have this new confidence in ourselves. Beating them is a gateway for us to be able to win the conference,” Langdon said.
After the Falcons have their last bye of the season on Thursday, they return to action on Saturday at Montana State Billings. But for now, they are just going to relish this sweet victory against WWU.
“It’s always nice to have that payback,” Johnson said. “Going in to next year, we can remember that we beat them at their home court and you really just love the payback.”