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...
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.
Select Individual highlights:
11/20/2017 - Zags End Season with Senior Day Win
11/18/2017 - Penner Lands 22 Kills as Zags Fall in Five
11/16/2017 - Tough Night Offensively Hands VB Loss in Stockton
11/15/2017 - Zags to End Regular Season with Long Weekend
11/14/2017 - Two NLI Signees for Volleyball
11/11/2017 - VB Falls to No. 12 San Diego
11/09/2017 - VB Falls to Ninth-ranked BYU