With the loss of all-stars Morgan Hooe and Erin Braun, UAA volleyball head coach Chris Green made up the difference with the addition of five new players, two of which have been already practicing with the Seawolves this spring.
The previous two signees for the team included Casey Davenport and Jalisa Ingram. Davenport will be a freshman coming from Auburn, WA and Ingram also a true freshman coming from Flagstaff, AZ.
The first addition is a local from Anchorage who graduated from Dimond High School. Anjoilyn Vreeland was a four year letter awardee on Dimond’s volleyball team, along with current UAA Seawolf and former Dimond Lynx player Leah Swiss. In high school, Vreeland was able to help her team to all four 4-A State Title matches in her career, as well as the championships in 2012 and 2015.
After graduating from Dimond and before coming to play at UAA, Vreeland spent a year in Pendleton, Oregon. She played at Blue Mountain Community College where she average 3.08 digs per set.
Vreeland is currently joined by another newcomer who has already been practicing with the Seawolves. Tara Melton also started her collegiate volleyball career away from UAA before transferring. In Arizona at Glendale Community College, Melton spent two years playing for the team as a middle blocker and right-side hitter.
Green is exceptionally optimistic about the future of the team with Melton. She was able to already play at a competitive level and show her future potential.
The 6-foot-1-inch Melton was also named to the 2016 National Junior Collegiate Athletic Association First Team All-American. She boasted 3.05 kills per set and 0.78 blocks per set in 2016, a switch from her averages in 2015 at 2.03 and 0.83, respectively.
With those, Melton was ranked third nationally in attack percentages, which helped her team to a national third-place in 2015 as well at a 54-8 record during her career there.
“[She] played at the highest level in junior college and proved she can be an elite offensive performer,” Green said.
The final addition to the team is a true freshman from thousands of miles away. Vera Pluharova is traveling to UAA all the way from Nechanice, Czech Republic.
Pluharova was familiar with the Seawolves long before she signed to the team. Due to being a member of the TJ Slavia Hradec Kralove club team, she was able to play against the Seawolves during their 2015 European summer tour and get a glimpse of what a future at UAA looked like.
In addition, it gave Green an insight into her playing ability.
“[She] has been very impressive in the back row this spring and comes from elite high school and club programs, so we are confident she will add great depth,” Green said.
With the official announcements of these five new volleyball players, they are the first additions to the UAA athletic community, with skiing coming second after the official signing of two skiers.
The alpine ski team lost all four of the total graduating seniors, despite that, head Nordic coach Andrew Kastning was the first to announce his additions on the Nordic side.
Kastning was grateful for the new additions; both being current Alaskan residents. One from Colony High School and the other from West Valley High, they both have excelled in the sport they just signed the national letter of intent for.
“Both [recruits] represent the very best of their respective ski clubs and it is always a big recruiting goal to have the best Alaskans join our team,” Kastning said.
Tracen Knopp is one of the two, and has competed in numerous ski races that ranked him as one of the best, as well as competing in cross country running in the fall.
During his senior year, Knopp took 27th at Junior Nationals in the 15K classic, as well as ranking sixth at the ASAA Skimeister standings. In addition, he placed fifth in the final Besh Cup standings.
To add to the female Nordic team, Jenna DiFolco signed her national letter of intent. As far as Besh Cup standings, DiFolco came out ranked No. 1 for women under 18.
In the ASAA Skimeister standings, she placed third, and at Junior Nationals she competed in two events, placing in the top 25 for both.
Both have shown obvious potential and ability to transition into a collegiate career of skiing, and according to Kastning, they will have years to continue to improve and grow.
As far as other sports, incoming recruits will be announced throughout the next several months. National letters of intent are generally signed during April, but coaches and teams can accumulate other athletes and walk-ons into late summer months.