2015 Woman of the Year finalist: Kayleigh Harper

In her first season playing college volleyball, Kayleigh Harper of Western Washington University wasted no time making an impact.

Harper, a finalist for The Herald’s 2015 Woman of the Year in Sports award, averaged 1.45 blocks per set (171 total blocks with 143 block assists and 28 block solos) to rank fifth in NCAA Division II. Those marks were the best among all Division II freshmen and the 171 total blocks were the most at WWU in more than two decades.

More importantly, Harper helped lead Western Washington to the Division II national championship tournament in Tampa, Florida. The Vikings reached the semifinals before losing 3-0 to eventual national champion Wheeling Jesuit of Wheeling, West Virginia, completing their season with a 27-5 record.

In WWU’s quarterfinals match against Rockhurst University of Kansas City, Missouri, Harper — a 6-foot-3 redshirt freshman middle blocker from Oak Harbor — had 10 blocks and 16 kills in the Vikings’ 3-1 victory.

For her play in Western Washington’s two matches at nationals, she was named to the all-tournament team, just as she was earlier named to the NCAA Division II West Regional all-tournament team, and to the All-Great Northwest Athletic Conference first team. In addition, Harper was named the NCAA Division II Rookie of the Year.

“Kayleigh is still a freshman,” WWU coach Diane Flick told the Bellingham Herald before the regional tournament. “She has still got a lot of learning and growing to do, but she has done a really great job of being a student of her craft.”

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