The Seawolves will be back in action this week with their first regular season game on Aug. 23. Prior to that, the Seawolves got back into the swing of things with the Seawolf Alumni game on Aug. 18.
Last year, the team finished the season being knocked out of the NCAA West Regional Championships in the first round against Western Washington in November. That left them ranked at number three in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference, tied with Central Washington.
The success seen in the previous season was largely due to the starters, Casey Davenport, Vanessa Boyer, Tara Melton, Leah Swiss, Chrisalyn Johnson, Anais Vargas and Keala Kaio-Perez. A majority of them are not returning this season.
Libero Kaio-Perez and outside hitter Vargas both graduated while other outside hitter Swiss announced she would not be returning in order to focus on school.
Despite the losses, Boyer, Melton, Johnson and Davenport have returned. Head Coach Chris Green is glad to have them due to the familiarity of the players.
“I think our players are smart, they know what is going to happen and I think because we’ve seen them and we adapt well, I think that gives us a good shot,” Green said.
Boyer, a middle blocker, comes back after boasting a .256 hitting percentage, good for 12th in GNAC. She was also third on the team in kills per set (1.65) and second in blocks (0.82).
Melton, another middle blocker, also returns after a successful previous season; she was fourth on the team in kills per set (1.46) and attack percentage (.217). Melton also ranked 10th in GNAC with 0.97 blocks per set.
The final two players returning from the previous starting team, Johnson and Davenport, were recently named to the GNAC Preseason All-Conference Volleyball Team.
Johnson, a 5-foot, 9-inch outside hitter, was one of the only players unanimously chosen. Out of the votes made by 11 head coaches in the league, Johnson and three others were the only ones to receive a unanimous vote.
The upcoming senior was named honorable mention All-Great Northwest Athletic Conference, GNAC Offensive Player of the Week, AVCA Div. II National Player of the Week and GNAC All-Academic Team.
These awards came with plenty of time and effort. She managed to rank No. 12 in GNAC for both points (3.05) and kills (3.55). The season bests went to help her school ranks; she finished up her junior season ranked 9th in kills per set and 14th in total kills (786).
In addition to Johnson, Davenport also made the GNAC pre-season team. The previous GNAC Freshman of the Year was one of only three sophomores in the conference to be named to the team.
Davenport stepped up less than one year ago after the departure of long-time and highly successful setter Morgan Hooe. The Washington local helped the Seawolves get their 19-11 overall record by playing in all 122 sets, but it wasn’t until half-way through the season that she took over as primary setter.
During her time as setter, Davenport averaged 10.06 assists, 0.94 kills and 3.34 digs. This year, she is the primary setter once again.
Six freshman have joined the team and a seventh re-joins after redshirting last season.
“We went with a youth movement in this year’s recruiting. With great experience coming back with seniors [Johnson, Noga, Melton] and [junior] Boyer, we think some of our newcomers can step in immediately and play effective complementary roles,” Green said.
Talia Leauanae from Wailuku, HI, Hannah Pembroke from Chico, CA and Katie Hoeffner from Appleton, WI will all join as outside hitters.
Maggie Schlueter is coming to UAA from Texas as a setter and defensive specialist. Ellen Floyd from Pensacola, FL is also joining as a setter. Kreylynn Johnson, a Ketchikan local who redshirted last season, is returning to play as a defensive specialist. Another Alaska local from Palmer, Eve Stephens, will join as a middle blocker.
The team has been training for the majority of the summer and will be playing their first game against Western New Mexico on Aug. 23 at 7 p.m. at the Alaska Airlines Center.