Last year, UAA’s Gymnastic team had a stellar year ending with a win at the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Championships. As defending champions, the bar to perform was set high this year. But instead of continuing where they left off, the Gymnastics team got off to a very rough start. The beginning of their season…
Author: Drew Neuerburg
Deep into the season, the Seawolves need to continue to make every point count.
Currently ranked 14th nationally and 4th in the West Region, the UAA Women’s Basketball Team travels to Montana Feb. 24 to attempt to extend their winning streak against the Montana State Billings Yellowjackets. The ‘Wolves then come home to the Wells Fargo Sports Complex on Saturday to play their in-state rivals, the UAF Nanooks.
Currently riding a winning streak beginning back on Jan. 30 against Northwest Nazarene, UAA looks to be clicking at the right time. The team only has four more games left in their regular season, including the matchups already mentioned.
It will be key for the team to continue to see production throughout the lineup amidst senior guard Kiki Taylor’s continued absence to injury. New faces have been stepping up lately for the green and gold, a necessity to the team’s success according to head coach Tim Moser.
“Kaitlin McBride and Nikki Aden, they really are handling the point guard well” said Moser, who was quick to recognize their efforts of many of the Seawolf players.
Some may worry about whether UAA can bring home two more wins without pride seeping into their play. This is because these are two teams UAA soundly beat earlier in the season; But they will be coming to town with one purpose and that is to beat the Seawolves.
Putting feelings aside, UAA’s season statistics are sound. They have an 18-3 record overall, losing only to Western State, Western Washington, and Seattle Pacific. Since their first meeting with Western State and Western Washington, UAA has met both again and emerged victorious in the rematch.
Montana State Billings, however, does not have as impressive an overall record as UAA, putting up 10 wins against their 12 losses. Also, they only average 63.6 points per game while allowing just less than 66 points per game.
Even less impressive in this aspect is UAF. The ‘Nooks have only produced two wins, both at home, in their 22 games this season.
They also have an even lower average score in points for and against. They come into the week scoring an average of 55 points but allowing almost 79 per game.
When comparing statistics of all three teams, it is evident that UAA should be the apparent victor over both teams, but that does not mean UAA can let off the proverbial pedal.
Hubris, deemed by the Ancient Greeks as pride or arrogance, is an easy mindset to fall in when one appears to be the winner.
Basically, UAA can’t afford to let stats or previous victories affect their mindset. This is a fact that Moser is well aware of.
“The team I’m coaching has proven we can beat anybody and lose to anybody,” Moser said.
With a season-best second place and numerous fourth-, fifth-, and sixth-place finishes, the Seawolves are still on the prowl for a top-three finish outside of their home state.
In the Montana Invite, UAA posted a total of 329 points between the Nordic and alpine teams. Their total was enough to earn sixth place, but was no match for New Mexico who claimed first, registering 467 points, beating defending NCAA Champion, Denver.
The reason for UAA’s sub-par results can probably be attributed to mental blocks they have yet to break, according to sophomore Alex Parker
“I think we all get a little too upset when we have a bad day,” Parker said. “Even though skiing is largely an individual sport, our performances all contribute to a team score and this tends to add pressure and sometimes we all get a little too caught up in the results.”
“This makes it hard to go out there the next race with confidence.”
While they have not performed at their highest level, they have been improving in each event.
The women’s alpine team’s performance is steadily improving as planned and should peak in March. The men are not only competing against themselves mentally, but also some of the best competition UAA has known, according to alpine coach Sparky Anderson.
“We came home from a very tough two week road trip. We lost Lacy Saugstad, our team captain and slalom anchor, which was a big blow emotionally,” said Alpine Coach Anderson. “Guys were skiing the first run and finishing first or second, then going out in the second run. Things didn’t go our way.”
“Some of it was dumb luck, some of it was mental. We have made adjustments in our training since we came home.”
If this was an inspirational movie, now would be the part where they just gone through a tough time, and now, under the pressure of necessity, begin to excel in everything they do.
“We all are really close and are always there supporting and cheering for each other,” said Parker. “I think this helps us a lot as a team because the support from each other pushes us individually allowing us to each contribute something to the team.”
“We seem to perform best when we are having fun.”
To turn the season around, the Seawolves must think positively and fight through the mental ups and downs of the sport.
The Seawolves will travel to Red River, N.M. on Feb. 5 and 6 to take part in the New Mexico Invite.
The first step to getting out of the proverbial hole you’ve dug, is to stop digging, followed by clawing your way back to the top. Though it has only been 13 games since their first match, UAA has only posted a 5 win, 8 loss record, with the most recent losses coming from University of Wisconsin, 5-1 and 6-2 on the Nov. 13 and 14.
Josh Lunden put up a pair of goals, making a valiant effort to put UAA on the board. These losses against the Badgers failed to improve UAA’s standing of eighth place with only four conference points, tying them with Michigan Tech.
“When you’re not scoring, I like to be the first person on the ice and working on taking shots, on picking corners, working on things you’re not doing in games,” junior forward Tommy Grant said in a recent article in the Anchorage Daily News. “The worst thing you can do is beat yourself up because that’s not going to help anything.”
Their next challenge comes in the form of St. Cloud State in the Sullivan Arena on the Dec. 4 and 5.
“St Cloud has some high skilled players that are a threat to score on the rush and have a very good power play,” said Hockey Coach David Shyiak.
This is the point of the season when UAA needs to reach their full potential and resolve their issues. They have remained inconsistent and those inconsistencies in their play have held them back. The season is only a month old, and some may contribute this to inexperience and some chemistry. Coach Shyiak, simply calls them growing pains.
It is the beginning and they have a clean slate. On December 5 and 6, the UAA Ski Team has their first meet, a home meet, against the in-state rival UAF Nanooks.
“The meet is important because we race our state rivals UAF and you never want to loose against your neighbor,” said Head Coach Trond Flagstad.
Last year, the team showed major sign of life as the UAA ski team made it to the NCAA Nationals.
“Seeing that we were so close to winning the NCAA last year they all had some extra motivation and an extra excuse to train more and better this summer and fall,” Flagstad said.
Though it is a small squad this year, five men and five women, throughout their preseason, they have trained vigorously, pushing themselves to their limits. Four of the six skiers that went to the NCAA tournament are back again this year.
“We expect every skier that returns to ski better than the year before. As a team they have raised the level and the quality of the workouts,” Flagstad said.
This first meet will be a placement meet, to see where the team stands.
The main goal for the Seawolves is to compete hard at the meet and come away from it improving their form, technique and strategies. After this meet against UAF, UAA will have over a month-long break to work on the things they have problems with at this first meet.
It is not the point of their season that they need to be at their best. That time will come in March. But the team will give it their all, even in December, according to Flagstad.
With only two games left in the season, the UAA Seawolves have accomplished a lot this season.
They have produced at least 20 wins, beating the previous season at 15 wins.
They are maintaining an unbeaten streak of 10 games, with the potential to make it 12. They have catapulted themselves from number seven in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference, to the highly coveted number one spot.
What makes this team so great? It could be luck or just a fluke. But the more likely answer is that it could be the star players who bring their “A” game all the time. Some of the ladies that are making big plays this year have already made the All-Time UAA statistics leaders.
For example, senior setter Calli Scott is 10th place on the career statistics leaders for assists, with 1,199 at the beginning of the season. She also holds seventh place on the single season statistics leaders with an average of 10.61 assists per set.
Senior libero Stacie Meisner holds seventh place among the season statistics leaders for total digs in a season with 510 and fifth place for digs per set with 4.51. She also is part of a tie for 15th on the single season statistics leaders for aces with 40.
Finally, junior middle blocker Courtney Lundberg also joins Meisner and Scott on the season statistics leaders for block assists and attack percentage. She is tied for 20th place for block assists with 83 and holds seventh place in her attack percentage with .290.
Recently, these ladies led their team to another victory over UAF, this time at the Wells Fargo Sports Complex, extending their winning streak to 10 games.
Now, with only two games left, UAA head coach Chris Green says, “we are going to be facing some of our fiercest competition, Northwest Nazarene and Seattle Pacific University.”
UAA beat both of these teams in their own houses as part of their current winning streak.
Though it’s not a Cinderella or a coach Carter story, the tale of the Seawolves Volleyball season is one for the books. Win after win; the Seawolves seem to be invincible. The last eight games, which began after their loss to Montana State, have been a roll for the Seawolves, their most recent victory coming against Western Oregon.
Teams have come and gone. Some have come again, and still UAA stays at the top of the conference. UAF will be the next challenger to try and knock down the number one team. The Seawolves and Nanooks faced off on Oct. 10, and UAA won 3 sets to none.
Now it is UAF’s turn to come to the Wells Fargo Sports Complex. The Nanooks, currently at 10-12 on the season, are holding a two game winning streak. Their wins coming against Central Washington and St. Martins Universities.
“They are playing better than they were when we played them last,” said coach Green. They are our in state rivals, and will be looking for revenge.”
UAA has only three more games, all at home. If they can win this one against UAF, they will do something the Seawolves haven’t done in over four years, beat UAF at home. Also, UAA has their first place ranking to focus on.
“With five games left, anything can happen, so we are staying focused on taking one game at a time” Green commented. “The coaching staff is excited that we are in the hunt for a conference championship.”
If the staff is excited then just imagine how the players feel. A few of them are in their final years and do not have another chance to win a conference title. In the beginning of the season coach Green relied on his few veteran players to carry the team. Now everyone is in the mix and playing well.
“We have improved offensively. Our kill percentage has increased dramatically from the beginning of the year. Our passers have definitely gotten better and the offense is more consistent. Defensively, I think we have also improved.” Green said.
This trend of good decision-making and intense play must continue for the Seawolves to achieve their goals and win the Conference Title. As of right now, they have already improved their record from last year, sitting at 17-7, but that is not enough for these ladies. They want to win it all.
From 7-5, 5-4 and 4-2, three sets to none, is how the UAA Seawolves beat GNAC powerhouse, Seattle Pacific, tying UAA with Seattle for first place. In that game, Seattle Pacific lost their first place dominance. They quickly retaliated by beating UAF, tying UAA for first place.
Can a team that began close to the bottom of the GNAC rise to the top and take first place? UAA is close to doing just that. Based on their previous years of play, UAA was predicted by the other coaches in the Great Northwestern Athletic Conference in the beginning of the season, to only take seventh in the conference this year. The UAA spikers are getting their revenge by showing doubters that they are a team that needs to be taken seriously and should not be underestimated.
“It is hard to predict something like that, and usually those predictions are based on what happened in the past seasons,” said Head Coach Green. “We have played well enough for the other teams to know that we will be a major [team] in the conference race this year.”
Currently, UAA sits on a six-game winning streak, the longest of the season. The most surprising part of this winning streak is not that it has come around at the end of their season or after they have been together for a long time. The wins have come against some of the toughest opponents in the GNAC.
“We have to continue to improve day by day and match by match to have a chance to win conference,” Green said. “The wins we had recently have helped build a sense of momentum”.
Momentum is what they will need to keep if the Seawolves are to finish the season at the top of the conference. They have five games left in the regular season. Their next two games are against Western Oregon and St. Martin’s University, and are also the final away games of the season.
Western Oregon and St. Martin’s University have both fallen to UAA in the first few days of October at UAA. UAA won the first three sets against both teams.
“Western Oregon and St. Martin’s are two good teams,” Green said. “I think Western Oregon did not play well against us at our place. We will expect them to play a much better match on their home court.”
All or nothing; it’s a fairly simple focus. Many teams and people have used this mentality as a means of motivation, and the UAA Volleyball team buys into it as well.
“Our goal this year is a little more clear-cut. We want to win conference,” said UAA Volleyball veteran Stacie Meisner. “So deciding if we are ready to play teams like Northwest Nazarene University and Seattle Pacific University is not really the issue, we just have to be ready.”
UAA’s next road trip consists of matches against both Northwest Nazarene University and Seattle Pacific University. In the 2008 season, UAA lost both of these matches three sets to none.
“It is hard to compare last year’s team to this year’s team. This year, our non-conference schedule was a little more difficult than last year’s,” said Head Coach Chris Green. “NNU and SPU both have two of the top teams in the conference. To defeat them away from home will be a huge challenge for us.”
“Last year when we went on that road trip, we really did not compete well. We hope to put up a better challenge this year.”
From a coach’s perspective, putting the best effort forward each game is the most one can ask for. But, only the players know what their best is.
“We are really strong offensively this year, whereas last year we were not quite as effective offensively but made up for it in our defense,” Meisner said when asked about differences between the two seasons.
When comparing statistics, UAA has improved from last season. After their first 19 games last year, UAA’s record was 11-8. This year, after 19 games, their record stands one better at 12-7.
Both their 2008 and progress 2009 season, so far, stand above their 2007 season, which ended with a record of 5-19.
What could inspire such a turnaround in seasons?
“It’s really been a refocus on fundamentals, and just bringing in talented players to the program,” Meisner said. “Coach Green has had everything to do with that. He’s a great coach and knows the game well, and is able to communicate his philosophy and techniques to the team, which in the end makes us successful.”
This increase in fundamentals has affected the team in many ways. They have improved their overall match consistency, which has allowed them to win big games. Though improving fundamentals has helped, the main factor in turning the volleyball team from a losing team to a winning one has been hard work and dedication by both the players and the staff.
“Last year, we had a group of returning players who were experienced and motivated,” Green said. “Mostly, we have played well in big games, and with the new players gaining experience, we have a lot to look forward to in the future.”
In order to keep GNAC championship in sight, the Seawolves need to win on the road against both Seattle Pacific and Northwest Nazarene Universities on Oct. 15 and 17.
The Seawolves will be looking to avenge a loss from last October to their in-state rival, the UAF Nanooks, this weekend. UAA will travel up to Fairbanks to battle the Nanooks on Saturday, Oct. 10 at 7:00 p.m. Although UAF gets home-court advantage first, which might factor into the final outcome, some coaches question whether…
Though they have had a busy schedule on the road, the Seawolves volleyball team is finally home for more than one game. After their recent loss to Montana State,UAA had a couple days off before going on the road yet again.
A four-day northwest coast trip with visits to Western Washington, Central Washington, and Rocky Mountain College was capped off by another showdown with Montana State. In their last encounter, Montana State crushed UAA at three sets to none.
But that is all in the past now. With four more games of experience and confidence under their belt, the Seawolves volleyball team is ready to take on a new challenge.
On Oct. 1, UAA plays Western Oregon, ranked fifth in the GNAC, and on October 3, they face off against St Martin’s, who is currently ranked ninth. The Seawolves must play at their peak to compete in either of these games.
Current Great Northwest Athletic Conference standings show UAA as the seventh raked team. With a record of eight wins and five losses as of Sept. 24, UAA is a formidable opponent with a better record overall than Western Oregon, 4-9, and St. Martin’s, 1-8.
UAA’s difficulties seem to arise not when playing a non-conference team, but when they are playing other GNAC teams. However, there are only a few similarities in all of the team’s games throughout the season so far.
Comparing UAA to St. Martin’s only showed similar match ups of Hawaii and Montana State.