With less than a month until its season kicks off, the UAA volleyball team is busy building up their roster and getting in ample pre-season training.
During the 2018-19 season, the Seawolves finished off their regular season ranked third in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference. They had a conference record of 14-6 and an overall record of 21-7, giving them a .700 and .750 win percentage, respectively.
Despite coming third in conference rankings, junior middle blocker Vera Pluharova admits that the team didn’t excel as much as they had hoped.
“We always hope to do better than the season before. Unfortunately, last year we didn’t make it to the postseason. So now, even before we start officially practicing, the team works hard in the weight room and open gyms to get better, and we hope to make it further this year,” Pluharova said.
With significant changes coming to the team, the 2019-2020 season is expected to be very different.
Former seniors and standout players Taylor Noga (defensive specialist), Tara Melton (middle blocker) and Chrisalyn Johnson (outside hitter) played their final season during 2018 and will be a significant loss to the team.
Despite the losses, many standout returners will continue their collegiate careers, joined by nine newcomers, including both transfers and first-time freshmen.
“This year, we have a new assistant coach. She’s been around last year serving as a graduate assistant, so she knows the team,” Pluharova said. “We’re going to start this season with 19 players on the roster, which is four more than last season.”
Previously announced and currently on the roster are five first-time freshmen: Mia Ekstrand (outside hitter, Anchorage, AK), Noho Lind (outside hitter, Hana, HI), Makana Eleneki (setter, Kailua, HI), Julia Fetko (setter, Anchorage, AK) and Reilly Plumhoff (libero, Anchorage, AK).
In addition to the new freshmen players, both Maggie Schlueter and Katie Hoeffner will be starting their collegiate careers. Both joined during the 2018-2019 season, but redshirted.
Finally, there are an additional two players joining: junior transfer Emma Kleven and junior Kayla McGlathery. McGlathery previously played for the Seawolves in 2014 before taking a break from school.
All the newcomers will be joined by senior standout middle blocker Vanessa Hayes.
“Some things I would like for us to do differently this season and play more as a team on the court. I feel as though the more we play together and have better communication, the better we will play,” Hayes said.
Hayes will have some familiarity in team dynamics starting the upcoming season. She will be joined by sophomore standout Eve Stephens, who was the 2018 GNAC Freshman of the Year.
In addition, junior Anjoilyn Vreeland will be returning as a libero after having played in every single set in the 2018 season.
Hayes explained that it may take time to build up the team dynamics, but they all have similar goals in mind.
“We haven’t quite discussed goals as a team yet, but typically our main goal every season is to win our conference. After that, we focus on winning our region and then hopefully making it to nationals,” Hayes said.
The Seawolves will debut their 2019-2020 season with the annual Seawolf Alumni game on Aug. 31, followed by their first regular season game against Regis University on Sept. 5.