The UAA volleyball team ended their season slightly discouraged from the end result, but with a triumphant finish in the eyes of their fans, the Seawolves made it farther than any other team in the UAA Volleyball program. In addition, they made it farther than every single team in NCAA Division II volleyball beside one: Concordia University, St. Paul.
With such an impressive season, the reigning Great Northwest Athletic Conference and West Regional Champions qualified for the final eight, while being ranked No. 9 in the nation in Division II. Rankings changed when the final eight were solidified, seeding the Seawolves towards the bottom at No. 6.
Despite already coming in with a slight disadvantage, UAA easily swept their first competitor Angelo State, 14-25, 25-22, 27-25, 25-16, for a 3-1 win on Thursday, Dec. 8.
Angelo State gave the Seawolves a quick beginning two sets but stepped their game up in set three before UAA quickly increased their dominance. Both outside hitters Chrisalyn Johnson and Leah Swiss paired up to rack in a combined for 39 kills and 32 digs for the game. On an injured knee, West Region Player of the Year Morgan Hooe accumulated 46 assists for the night.
Moving on to the NCAA Semifinals, the Seawolves prepared to take on Palm Beach Atlantic — the 2015 NCAA Championship runner-up and 2016 NCAA Elite Eight seed No. 2.
In another match to four sets, UAA proved to be defying standards and exceeding expectations, winning their semifinal match and ending Palm Beach’s nation-best 32-match win streak.
With another 3-1 win, 25-16, 19-25, 25-17, 25-22, Palm Beach proved to be an easier competitor for UAA to reign over. Freshman middle blocker Vanessa Hayes got into the action with her career-high of eight kills, also adding four blocks.
Hooe and Johnson proved to be the standouts for the second game in a row; Hooe dishing up 51 total assists and Johnson snagging 17 of them for successful kills.
Breaking school and program records, UAA advanced on to the final championship game against No. 1 seed Concordia University St. Paul — the consecutive winner on seven straight NCAA Volleyball Championship titles from 2007-2013.
Saturday, Dec. 10 marked the day of the final game. The Seawolves came in prepared, but almost immediately it was evident that their game was off. With one of the quickest matches of the tournament, the teams battled it out for only just over an hour.
The Seawolves didn’t have the reactions and offense that normally sent the crowds cheering, set one allowed them some minor flexibility to reach 19-25, but the following two sets didn’t even get UAA to the halfway point, both finalized at 12-25.
As head coach Chris Green commented in a press conference, the team wasn’t able to serve-receive like they normally do, a significant strength that they struggled with, resulting in excessive offensive errors.
In contrast to the previous games, Johnson accumulated three kills and Swiss had eight. While Concordia St. Paul registered 51 digs, the Seawolves had 27; Concordia also landed 50 kills in contrast to UAA’s meager 23.
The exceptional, record-breaking season from the women’s volleyball team will be known for seasons to come. Making it further than any team in program history, UAA volleyball represented their school and their state with pride.Tags: Angelo State, Chris Green, Chrisalyn Johnson, Concordia St. Paul, Leah Swiss, Morgan Hooe, NCAA Div. II Elite Eight, NCAA Division II Championship, NCAA Division II West Regional Championships, NCAA Semifinals, Palm Beach Atlantic, Vanessa Hayes