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Sam Richmond | NCAA.com | December 10, 2015

Western Washington proving that youth can be an asset

  Freshman Kayleigh Harper played an instrumental role in Western Washington's comeback win Thursday.

With six redshirt freshmen and four sophomores making up much of its roster, Western Washington entered the 2015 Division II women’s volleyball championship as one of the tournament’s youngest teams.

But one wouldn’t be able to know their age by watching them out on the court. The Vikings are a team that has exhibited veteran-like poise throughout the tournament, and it’s why they’re now headed to the semifinals after beating Rockhurst 3-1 on Thursday.

“People always ask me what it’s like for your team to be young, and I say ‘it’s a blessing and a curse,’” coach Diane Flick said. “It’s a blessing because they really don’t know, and it’s a curse because they really don’t know.”

What they do know, however, is to never give up.

MORE: Box Score | Bracket

After coasting through the tournament’s opening round, it’s been far from a cakewalk for Western Washington. They dropped the first set in the second round against UC San Diego and then had to battle back once again after trailing 2-1 in the match. They fell down 2-0 to Cal State San Bernardino the following match, but came away victorious.

On Thursday, they fell behind 1-0 to Rockhurst. True to form, they stayed in the match and ultimately claimed a 2-1 lead.  But again, adversity struck, as they trailed 22-18 in the fourth set.  Surprise, surprise: The Vikings called a timeout, rattled off seven straight points and will now be among the final four teams standing.

Just call them the Comeback Kids.

“They amaze me every single day because youth is not supposed to battle like that, youth is supposed to be fearful, youth is supposed to wonder about what’s going to happen next,” Flick said. “And they’re the kind of group that makes things happen next.”

Western Washington's recipe for success: a positive attitude and a collective short-term memory.

“Our team is a team that when a timeout like [the timeout late in the fourth set] is called, it’s ‘OK, we’re winning this next ball. There’s no other option,’” freshman Abby Phelps said. “And if we don’t, ‘It’s OK, we’re winning this next ball. There’s no other option.’” I love that about my team, and I think that’s what makes us hard to beat.”

“That’s a maturity that is extremely hard to teach and really hard to have in young players because they normally think about the past,” Flick said. “We have a quote on our team: If you’re depressed you’re in the past, if you’re anxious you’re in the future and if you’re at peace you’re in the present. So our goal is to always be at peace.”

Flick and her peaceful team will take on Wheeling Jesuit with a championship game berth on the line on Friday.

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