The accomplishments of UAA’s athletic department have already added up to an impressive amount during the first half of the school year.
Cross-country and volleyball are the only sports that have finished competing for the year, but volleyball will start its preparations for the next year in the spring, while the cross-country runners are currently preparing for the indoor and outdoor track season.
Interim Athletic Director Tim McDiffett is excited about the success during the fall semester and is looking forward to the remainder of the year.
“We’ve had a terrific fall and I am so proud of all of our student-athletes and coaches,” McDiffett said. “Watching the live stream of Caroline Kurgat running away from the field for the national cross-country title was incredible, and having our women’s basketball team capture the championship of the final [GCI Great Alaska] Shootout will be a memory we will all cherish for a long time. Of course Seawolf volleyball continues to impress, achieving another NCAA post-season berth.”
After an impressive 2016 campaign, the Seawolves had many eyes on them. But after graduating some of their most valuable players, including setter Morgan Hooe, and the dismissal of two more players, the Seawolves had a hard time finding their rhythm and game dynamic. The Seawolves ended their season with an overall 19-11 and a 14-6 Great Northwest Athletic Conference record placing tied for third in the final GNAC rankings. The volleyball team also earned their fifth straight NCAA Tournament berth, placing seventh at the Division II West Regional Championships.
Junior outside hitter Leah Swiss had an impressive season delivering 415 kills and 15 double-doubles. Swiss ended the season ranked second in GNAC, averaging 3.37 kills, 2.79 digs, 0.45 aces and 0.47 blocks per set, which earned her First Team All-GNAC recognition and AVCA Division II honorable mention All-American.
Senior libero Keala Kaio-Perez also earned the GNAC recognition as well as a spot on the D2CAA All-West Region Volleyball Team — making her the first UAA libero to receive that honor. Kaio-Perez accumulated more than 500 digs in one season.
Junior middle blocker Tara Melton tabbed the GNAC co-Newcomer of the Year and setter Casey Davenport was awarded with the GNAC Freshman of the Year honors.
“I can’t wait for spring practice to start,” Swiss said in a press conference. “We’ve got a great core group coming back, and I know we’ll be hungry to get back here because we know how to get here and what it takes.”
Cross-country / track and field
The Seawolves made history by producing their first female national champion in cross-country. Senior Caroline Kurgat took the win at the Division II NCAA National Championship on Nov. 18.
Kurgat finished the six-kilometer course in 20 minutes, 32.3 seconds, leading her team to an overall fifth place finish. Junior Zennah Jepchumba also earned All-American honors with her 32nd place finish, while Edwin Kangogo collect the honor on the men’s side with a 19th place showing.
Throughout the season, Kurgat earned the GNAC title, Division II West Region title, three National Athlete of the Week honors, GNAC Athlete of the year and West Region Athlete of the Year before being named National Athlete of the Year.
Earlier in the season, the women’s team already captured their third consecutive GNAC title, securing five individual All-GNAC honors, while the men’s team finished runner-up, collecting two individual All-GNAC honors. At the meet, sophmore Emmah Chelimo was announced the Women’s Newcomer of the Year and Jorge Sanchez received the award on the men’s side.
At the NCAA Division II West Region Championships, the women’s team placed runner-up with all five scoring runners earning All-Region honors. Edwin Kangogo’s sixth place finish led the men’s team to a fifth place overall finish.
The distance squad as well as the remaining track and field squad is currently in their preparation for the indoor season. Their first meet will be held on Jan. 12-13.
So far, the women’s basketball team remains unbeaten this season and is ranked second nationally. The Seawolves’ winning streak currently stands at 9-0 overall and 3-0 in GNAC. The women have added some strong tournament wins to their record at the Wildcat Crossover Tournament in Ellensburg, Washington and Seawolf Hoops Classic at the Alaska Airlines Center in early November as well as the GCI Great Alaska Shootout title against D-I opponents.
The Green and Gold received strong games from junior center Hannah Wandersee of Kodiak, who excelled her career-high points per game to 27 as of now. This far into the season, Wandersee averages 17.1 points per game, and 6.8 rebounds per game. Head Coach Ryan McCarthy predicts her to earn All-American honors this season. Additionally, senior forward Shelby Cloninger produced six double-figures, including a career-high 22 points. She has currently 12.4 ppg and 6.1 rpg on her record.
The Seawolves will continue against GNAC opponents on Dec. 29 and return to their home court on Jan. 11 against Western Oregon University.
The men’s basketball team’s roster is almost entirely new compared to last year. Having only three returners on the squad, the Seawolves are onto the 2017-18 campaign. So far they registered a tournament win at the Alaska/Hawaii challenge and sixth place finish at the final GCI Great Alaska Shootout against D-I opponents in Nov. So far they hold an overall 6-4 and 4-4 GNAC record.
Senior forward Jacob Lampkin of Bellevue, Washington led the Green and Gold with 15.1 ppg and 9.7 rpg, followed by senior transfer D.J. Ursery, who has 11.0 ppg and 4.8 rpg to his name. Josiah Wood leads the team with 11 3-point shots, while senior guard/forward Drew Peterson recorded the highest free throw percentage at .875.
The men’s basketball team will face GNAC opponent Western Oregon University on Dec. 17, before returning for their next home game on Jan. 4 against Saint Martin’s University.
During the main portion of the fall semester, UAA’s ski teams have been practicing in their typical alternative ways while waiting for snow.
While the alpine ski team went to practice on snow in Colorado for a training camp, the Nordic team hosted the Alaska Nordic Cup against in-state rival Fairbanks back in November. During the competition, UAA’s Hailey Swirbul led the women in the 7.5-kilometer classic race in 22 minutes, 45 seconds. Swirbul was followed by four of her teammates. On the men’s side, Toomas Kollo took the win in the 10-kilometer race, 29 minutes, 3 seconds. His teammates placed fourth and sixth overall.
The mixed relay section of the Alaska Nordic Cup featured four skiers, two men and two women each, who raced a 5-kilometer course — freestyle. The Green and Gold finished in 64 minutes, 42 seconds and 66 minutes, 21 seconds. The wo
men and men’s top three times combined with the two relay teams determined UAA as the overall winner.
The Nordic team will compete next at the U.S. Cross-Country Nationals at Kincaid Park on Jan. 2-4 and the alpine team will travel to Big Sky, Montana for the Montana State Invitational on Jan. 6-8.
Senior forward Austin Azurdia of Wenatchee, Washington scored a team-leading 8 goals of the season so far. Azurdia also holds a team-high 16 points, while Jonah Renouf’s 2 goals and streak of 8 assists puts him second in the team standings with 10 points. Senior goaltender, Olivier Mantha, continues to make a name for himself. This season, Mantha has recorded 519 saves so far at a .911 percent, and has accumulated 3,022 career saves overall.
The Seawolves are ranked 10 out of 10 in their WCHA conference standings with a record of (1-11-4, 1-6-3-3). They will face conference opponent Bemidji State University on Dec. 15-16, before returning to Sullivan Arena on Jan. 5-6.
The Seawolves entered their first competition, the Green and Gold intrasquad, under the guidance of new head coach Tanya Ho on Dec. 9. The Gold team took the win in 123.550 over the Green team’s 101.675.
“I think the girls really stepped up today,” Ho said. “They have been practicing really hard all semester and they have the numbers under them. They just need to do it under pressure with a live audience and some judges watching them. They all did well and no major mistakes were done. They actually did better than expected.”
Sophmore and co-MPSF champion on balance beam 2017, Sophia Hyderally posted a meet-high 9.775 on balance beam and also placed runner-up on floor, 9.55, to introduce the beginning of the new season. Further, sophmore Mackenzie Miller of Waterford, Michigan scored a 38.025 all-around during her first showing as an all-around gymnast at UAA. Miller placed runner-up on bars, 9.625, and floor, 9.5.
Junior Kaylin Mancari took the win on floor, 9.65, while freshman Hope Nelson secured a first place finish on bars with a score of 9.675. Isabella Scalapino scored 9.6 points on vault to take the win.
The Green and Gold will return to from Christmas break on Dec. 28 to prepare for their first official meet against Cortland University at the Alaska Airlines Center on Jan. 12 and 14.