Recruiting season: Seawolves restock athletes across numerous sports
A common phrase collegiate and professional athletes use is “there is no offseason.” This is not only applicable to those playing the game, but to those coaching and organizing the teams as well. This is a busy time of year for the coaching staff and front offices of collegiate sports, as they scramble to get athletes from all across the world to sing a National Letters of Intent. Several UAA sports are already knee-deep in the recruiting season, and more are to come. There is a lot of young talent taking their skills to the Last Frontier to play for the Green and Gold.
Coming off a runner-up finish in the National Championship game, the Lady Seawolves did not take much time in trying to replace the seven seniors lost. The first signee for them was 5’9″ guard Zhara Laster from St. Mary’s County, Maryland. Laster was a standout at Peninsula College, leading the program to their best years in school history. She averaged 9.7 points per game, 10.4 rebounds per game and swiped 3.2 steals per game last season. This earned her the Northwest Athletic Conference Northern Region Defensive Player of the Year honors.
“Zhara is an extremely athletic guard who can impact the game on many levels,” head coach Ryan McCarthy said, who was named West Region Coach of the Year during the 2015-16 season. “Her relentless effort on defense really stands out, but she can also be an effective offensive threat and brings very high ceiling for improvement. Just as importantly, she has proven to be a winner on the court, with her team going 48-11 in her two seasons.”
The next domino to fall for the women’s basketball team was forward Shelby Cloninger, who attended North Idaho Junior College. Cloninger averaged a team high 13.5 points and also added 4.7 rebounds and 1.5 steals per game. She played 18 games as a true freshman for NCAA Division I Utah State prior to singing at North Idaho.
“We are very excited to have Shelby as part of our Seawolf family here at UAA,” McCarthy said. “Shelby was recruited at a high level and enjoyed some success in Division I. She also comes from a very successful JUCO program and has been well coached. Her balance of skill and athleticism allows her to score from multiple areas on the floor. I think Seawolf fans will really enjoy watching her play.”
Another notable recruit is Div. I transfer Autummn Williams, who will have one year of eligibility for the Seawolves after coming over from Little Rock.
“Autummn is an elite athlete who, at 5’10”, can cover a lot of ground and will be probably the best leaper I have coached at the guard position.” McCarthy said. “She is a tenacious defender and can make plays at the rim that are unique to our level. I think Seawolf fans will really enjoy watching Autummn compete this next season.”
On June 1, the Lady Seawolves added yet another piece to their roster. Dominique Thomas of Kilgore Junior College inked her national letter of intent after earning First Team All-Region XIV her sophomore season while putting up 12.6 points and hauling in 7.6 rebounds per game.
Other players who have signed their letter of intent for the UAA women’s basketball team are guards Kaitlyn Hurley from Snow College, and Kimijah King who is signing out of high school.
To kick off recruitment for the skiing program, head ski coach Sparky Anderson announced the signing of four skiers. The new racers coming in include Zackarias Toresson, Natalie Hynes, Michaela Keller-Miller and Hannah Rudd.
“We are very excited about the incoming recruits for next season,” Anderson said. “We believe this group will produce results for us straight out of the box and will continue to get better and better.”
Toresson is from Varberg, Sweden, and skied for Saevast Ski Team, who competed in National Championships several times. Hynes reigns from Whitehorse, Yukon, and finished with a top-10 result at the National Championships this March. Another skier was added to the roster a few weeks after the four-some had signed. Dominic Unterberger, from Revelstoke, British Columbia, is an Alpine skier who just put his signature on the dotted line to become a Seawolf.
After coming off of a disappointing 2015-16 campaign, if the hockey team looks to bounce back next season, they will need production from the newest members skating in green and gold. In late April, head coach Matt Thomas locked up six players, all international athletes.
Attacking forwards being added to the squad are Aleksi Ainali of Vihti, Finland and Corey Renwick from Nanoose Bay, B.C.
“Aleksi is someone who we feel can be a difference maker in the offensive zone,” Thomas said. “Corey is a guy that will do whatever he needs to do in order to help his team win.”
The Seawolves also had four defensemen join the team this offseason. Julius Marva and Tomi Hiekkavirta are both from Finland and hope to bring versatility and relentlessness to the table.
“Julius is a player who is just beginning to tap into his potential,” Thomas said. “Tomi is a top-end skater with elite vision, he has the ability to make our power play better from the get go.
Traveling from Landshut, Germany is David Trinkberger, who stands at 6’5″ and has played for Germany’s U20 team the last two seasons.
“He is an imposing defensive defenseman that keeps things simple. He has high-end character and is a workhorse both on and off the ice,” Thomas said.
The fourth defenseman singed by the Seawolves was Nolan Nicholas.
“Throughout the recruiting process, everyone who knew Nolan could not say enough positive things in regards to his character and leadership qualities. All winning teams need guys like Nolan and we are excited that he chose UAA,” Thomas said.
Volleyball has revamped their roster for the 2016-17 season by added six talented women. Junior-college transfer Keala Kaio-Perez, from Hawaii, played for the NJCAA national runner-up last season, helping lead Western Nebraska Community College to a 42-5 record. Another JC star making a transition to Div. II is two-time All-Region IX performer Anais Vargas, who will help replace some of the kills that were lost from the seniors who have moved on.
The Volleyball team also signed four players out of high school, including one local from Alaska. Diana Fa’amausili, Madison Fisher, Vanessa Hayes and Kara Viotta from Eagle River High School have all decided to begin their collegiate career with the Seawolves. Coming of their best record in program history, UAA hopes these newcomers can help build upon an amazing season.
While other athletes continue to sign, and rosters progress, the Seawolf athletic programs are in good shape heading into the 2016-17 season.