‘Fired up’ Seawolves hold off Nanooks for second time

The Seawolves volleyball team secured an eighth-place outright finish in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference Nov. 5 by sweeping the Nanooks at the Wells Fargo Sports Complex.

The game also marked sophomore libero Racheal Knecht’s first home game of the season after off-season ACL surgery made her unable to play.

“It’s always good to be No. 1 in the state,” she said after the game. “It’s a bragging right.”

UAA (7-17, 4-12 GNAC) won the game in three matches, 30-20, 30-23, 30-20, and now leads the in-state rivalry series 52-28, including 30-9 in Anchorage. The team tallied a win in Fairbanks earlier this season, its first Fairbanks win since 2001.

“For us to go up there early in the season and take a win from them on their court was a goal, and then to sweep them in the season was a big goal for us,” said first-year head coach Michelle Earl.

Freshman outside hitter Heather Lyons lead the Seawolves in kills with 15. And middle blocker Chelsey Glines, a junior transfer, lead the team in blocks with five.

Junior setter Stephanie Martinez, from Austin, Texas, attributes the team’s success to its progressive growth.

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“Throughout the season, every match we came in a little bit stronger than the last,” she said. “Our enthusiasm and positivism came out strong in each match.”

Knecht said the win was due to strong hitting, among other things.

“Our blocking wasn’t as powerful as it normally is, but our passing and hitting came through for us,” she said. “We kept talking throughout the match. And being at home made a huge difference.”

UAF, lead by April Blandford’s 10 kills and game-best .529 hitting, is 1-19, 1-15 for the season.

“The girls have been fired up all week about this match,” Earl said. “They were ready to get the win.”

The Seawolves’ final games of the season are Nov. 10 and 12 at home against nationally ranked Central Washington and Western Washington. But Earl is already thinking about next season.

“We’ll come back in the spring and do a lot of individual work,” Earl said. “We’ll be tweaking our offense, making it a little bit quicker, working on defense.”