Zags Build the Foundation in 2017

Dec. 7, 2017

SPOKANE, Wash.--With a young roster of seven freshmen, 12 underclassmen, and just one senior, the Gonzaga volleyball team established a strong foundation during 2017. The Bulldogs went 9-9 in West Coast Conference play, finishing in a tie for fourth place. That is the program's second-highest finish since 1994, and they finished the season with a 14-16 overall record.

Here's a look back at some of the Zags' highlights from the year:

They started the home slate with the program's first-ever win over Arizona State. It's the second consecutive season that the Zags beat a Pac-12 opponent. Freshman Chapin Gray landed the game-winning kill.

And the next week, junior Marit Thorkildsen had quite a match against Grand Canyon to break a school record.

The Bulldogs opened West Coast Conference play with a match to remember. They rallied for a five-set win over Saint Mary's Sept. 21, and Jenna Kuehn added 23 assists, 15 kills, and 10 digs for Gonzaga's first triple-double of the rally-scoring era. She'd end the season with three total.

They entered the second weekend of WCC play with a three-match win streak, and that grew to five after a pair of five-set wins in the Bay Area. The stretch of strong play had everybody jumping for joy...

That Golden (Gate) #friyay feeling 🌉

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With a home sweep of Pepperdine and Loyola Marymount, the Zags then pushed that win streak to seven matches, the longest such streak in 10 years. The final six came against WCC foes for a fantastic beginning to the conference season.

The win streak was snapped at San Diego Oct. 12, but Gonzaga beat Portland on the road a week later. The Zags went into the second half of conference play with a 7-2 first-half record. During that match against the Pilots, junior Tiyana Hallums became the first Zag in five years to tally 30 or more digs in a match; she set a career high with 31. Hallums and her path to Gonzaga was featured in an article in November.

Gonzaga ended the season Nov. 20 with a win, downing Portland in five sets once again, this time at home. Freshman Sarah Penner landed 26 kills in the match, the most by a Zag this season. Junior Faith Smith dished out 57 assists, setting all six rotations for the first time in her career.

Before that final match, Alyse Whitaker was honored as the Zags' lone senior. After transferring to Gonzaga over the summer, she provided steady leadership for the young squad in addition to her team-best .285 attack percentage and 88 blocks.

Two Zags earned All-Conference honors as Payton Mack picked up All-WCC Honorable Mention accolades and Penner was named to the All-Freshman team. Mack broke out during her first year as a starter, tallying 68 blocks and 1.75 kills a frame in conference play, and Penner led all WCC freshmen with 292 kills.

Meanwhile, Kuehn earned WCC All-Academic honors while Smith, Mack, Hallums, and Thorkildsen each received All-Academic Honorable Mention.

Congrats to our 🖐 WCC All-Academic honorees! #smartcookies #unitedwezag

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Select Individual highlights:

Chapin Gray

  • Denver Invite All-Tournament Team...29 kills, 15 digs, six blocks
  • Second on team with 236 kills

Tiyana Hallums

  • Co-captain
  • 393 digs, eighth-most in rally-scoring era...ninth in WCC with 3.36 digs per set
  • WCC All-Academic Honorable Mention
  • First Zag in five years with at least 30 digs in a match (31 at Portland, Oct. 21)
  • Moved into eighth on the rally-scoring era career digs list with 915.

Jenna Kuehn

  • Three triple-doubles on the year, the first three in Gonzaga's rally-scoring era.
  • WCC Player of the Week - Sept. 25
  • GCU Invite All-Tournament Team...37 assists, 21 kills, 17 digs

Kaylie Loewen

  • Montana State Bobcat Classic All-Tournament Team...38 kills, 11 blocks, .275 attack percentage
  • Gonzaga Invitational All-Tournament Team...32 kills, .312 attack percentage, eight blocks
  • Moved into ninth in rally-scoring era with 233 career blocks, 209 block assists
  • Career-high 2.32 kills a set, tied a personal best with 144 total kills

Payton Mack

  • All-WCC Honorable Mention...68 blocks, 1.75 kills per set, .287 attack percentage against WCC foes
  • Led team with 0.85 blocks per set, second with 84 total blocks
  • WCC All-Academic Honorable Mention

Sarah Penner

  • WCC All-Freshman Team...first Zag on Freshman Team since 2013
  • Led conference freshmen with 292 kills, second-most by a Zag freshman in rally-scoring era
  • Career highs of 26 kills and 19 digs Nov. 20 versus Portland

Faith Smith

  • Moved to fourth in rally-scoring era, eighth all-time with 1,895 career assists
  • WCC All-Academic Honorable Mention
  • Led team in assists, second in digs and double-doubles

Marit Thorkildsen

  • School record with 24 digs in a three-set match Sept. 9 at Grand Canyon (8.00 digs/set)
  • Co-captain
  • WCC All-Academic Honorable Mention
  • GCU Invite All-Tournament Team...40 digs, 14 assists, six service aces

Alyse Whitaker

  • Led team with .285 attack percentage and 88 blocks
  • Started 29 of 30 matches
  • Nine blocks 9/9 at Grand Canyon...tied for third-most in three-set matches during rally-scoring era



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