Seawolves battle Montana rivals

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Chrisalyn Johnson tips the ball over to two of Montana State University Billings. The Seawolves beat MSU 3-0. Photo credit: Skip Hickey

Finishing up the fourth week of the official season, the Seawolves traveled to Montana to take on two separate rivals. In the conclusion of the back-to-back games, the UAA volleyball team stayed close to the top of the Great Northwest Athletic Conference rankings. Sitting at fourth out of 11 teams, the Seawolves hold a 3-1 conference record and a 10-2 overall record.

Ahead of the Seawolves, in a three-way conference tie, Western Washington, Concordia, and Central Washington all have a 3-0 conference record. However, none of the top teams had to battle it out with the Seawolves during the fourth week. No. 9 Montana State Billings met UAA on the court on Sept. 14.

In addition to the four weeks of matches, the Seawolves have spent their fair share of time on the court in practice.

Head Coach Chris Green explained there has been a lot of variations in their practices.

“[In practice] we have really been playing around offensively, trying different combinations and trying to get some connections, and we have been getting some good connections with our hitters,” Green said.

Green’s offensive goals managed to show over the weekend, something he was pleased with despite some minor setbacks.

Prior to Sept. 14’s conference battle, the Seawolves warmed up against Rocky Mountain College on Sept. 13 in a five set showdown. Rocky Mountain is an NAIA rival that forced the Seawolves to put in extra effort to take home the win.

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The Seawolves headed to the court to compete in their final non-conference match of the regular season only to suffer an immediate loss.

The first set put UAA behind by five with a 20-25 loss that gave them a 0-1 deficit to start. But with a quick comeback, the Seawolves jumped back in to win two back to back sets, 25-23 and 25-19.

With a standout effort, junior outsider hitter Vanessa Boyer and senior Chrisalyn Johnson both maintained solid killing streaks to keep the Seawolves offense up.

Their NAIA rival didn’t cut them any slack with a maximum point difference of just six points. Ruining the Seawolves streak, Rocky Mountain stepped back up during the fourth set to overtake the Seawolves with a 25-27 win.

Tied overall, 2-2, the Seawolves prevailed in the final set to win 15-10.

Boyer ended the match with an impressive 15 kills and a .364 hitting average while teammates Johnson and Tara Melton finished with 12 kills each.

After recovering and regrouping, the Seawolves returned Friday night to combat conference rivals, Montana State Billings.

Despite a 3-0 win, MSU challenged UAA in close sets and overtime.

MSU trailed by four points, which was just enough to give the Seawolves the first win of the night. Falling behind even more, UAA prevailed throughout the second set to win 25-18.

In a last ditch effort, MSU gave the Seawolves a final challenge. Toggling back and forth between leaders the teams neared the 25-point win mark. With less than two points in between them, both teams made it to 25 and kept going. In one last point, the Seawolves won their conference match with a final 28-26 set.

“I think the season has come along very good. Having six newcomers on the team we were kind of curious how the leadership would go with only three seniors and one junior, but it has actually worked out really well,” Melton said.

Matching her kill count from the prior night, Johnson accumulated the team high with 12, closely followed by freshman middle blocker Eve Stephens at 10 kills.

“I was pleased with the resilience we showed in the third set, being able to dig out of a big hole to finish a tough league road win in three,” Green said. “Our seniors all had strong efforts. Chrisalyn [Johnson] had one of her best matches of the year, and we got a nice all-around performance from Taylor [Noga], so lots of credit goes to our veterans tonight.”

In addition to a night of senior accomplishments, other team freshman setter Ellen Floyd managed to tally up the team high in assists with a total of 16.

“We have a couple freshman that are stepping up. Ellen Floyd and Eve Stephens are doing a great job as freshmen and that’s kind of surprising to have freshmen come in and play well right away,” Green said.

The Seawolves will be back in action on Sept. 20 in British Columbia against conference rival Simon Fraser. For more information and a full schedule visit www.goseawolves.com

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