It couldn’t have been much sweeter last year for the Seawolves Volleyball team and Head Coach Chris Green.
All they did was rattle off an astounding 13 straight victories, win the school’s first conference title and claim their first NCAA Tournament win as a team.
Green, last year’s GNAC and West Region Coach of the Year, knows that, despite the fantastic season last year, its time to close the book on the Cinderella season.
“We really have been focusing on this season and working hard during the summer to prepare for it,” Green said, who recently won UAA’s Bill Rose Memorial Award. “It was a nice accomplishment, but put it into the past and start looking to the future.”
However, with the seven returning letterwinners coming back from last season, and a crop of new and strong players coming in, a rewrite to last season is not hard to fathom.
Targets on their backs
It is perhaps the hardest thing to do in any sport at any level – successfully defending a title by repeating as champions.
To do it in the GNAC, the Seawolves will rely on players from last year to help pave the road. Senior middle blocker Cortney Lundberg is the only senior on the team and understands she will be relied on to help bring along some of the new Seawolves.
Lundberg herself is coming off a stellar junior season. One in which she averaged a league high 1.14 blocks per set. She also got it done on the offensive side by recording a 2.54 kills per set average to go along with her .298 attack percentage rank her number one in the UAA history books.
Lundberg landed a spot on the last years AVCA All-West Region Second Team as well as Second Team All-GNAC for her efforts.
Also returning are the likes of junior outside hitter McKenzie Moss, sophomore defensive specialist Nikkie Viotto, and junior Jackie Matthisen. All were starters last year for the Seawolves look to be locks as team leaders, both on and off the court.
“Those three are doing a good job, some are leading quietly while some are leading vocally. It’s something we will need,” said Green.
Moss, who is a local product out of Bartlett High School, put up big numbers on both sides of the ball. Her 3.16 kills per set ranked her second on the team. On defense, her 2.67 digs per set were also second on the team.
Viotto looks to be one of the top candidates to take over the Libero role on the team and lead the defenses of the ‘Wolves. She averaged 1.56 digs per set and played in every single set last season for UAA as a freshman.
Matthisen will be called upon to continue her brilliance on the outside attack. Her 4.63 kills per set average ranked her second in the GNAC and helped her to Second Team All-GNAC as well as AVCA All-West Region Second Team.
All four returning starters will be relied on heavily to produce both offensively and defensively.
Gone but not forgotten
The season will open without the likes of three faces that played critical roles in last years storybook season.
Setter Calli Scott will be the biggest void left. Her stellar season gained her GNAC Player Of The Year as well a First Team All-West Region Selection and Honorable Mention All-American honors. Her 10.64 assists per set topped the GNAC and helped the ‘Wolves to a .222 team hitting percentage, also tops in the league.
“Calli ran our offense for the past two years so she really left some big shoes to fill,” said Green.
Scott also was also named the Seawolf Athlete of the Year for the 2009-10 athletic season.
Libero Stacie Meisner also has departed and her 4.54 digs per set and .36 aces per set go with her. Green referred to her as the foundation of the UAA defense. The numbers would suggest the same as Meisner averaged 4.54 digs per set and had 11 matches in which she recorded 20 or more digs.
Middle Blocker Ashley Bates will leave a hole to fill on the front line. She finished fifth in the GNAC in blocks per set (0.96) and was instrumental in perhaps the most memorable game from last season. Her career high seven blocks came at the best time possible when she helped the green and gold to their first ever NCAA Tourney win over Hawaii-Hilo.
“Ashley was a great leader for us on the court and brought a huge block,” said Green.
All three players will be missed but as Green will tell you, the job at hand with the current players is the focus.
“Every year you lose some players and last year was no different. We just have to regroup and fill their holes,” said Green
New players in the fold
There will be no shortage of talent throughout the lineup for the Seawolf spikers. However, how that talent transitions to the college ranks and Seawolf style of play is the real question.
Perhaps the biggest question mark will be who will take over Scott in running the offense as setter.
Three ladies look to be making their case and each has something different to bring to the table.
Transferring from fellow Division II program Northern Michigan, Maddie Ogden has the most college experience to her name. In 2008, Ogden turned some heads by leading the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference with a 10.39 assists per set average. Her 6’1” frame may give her the benefit of more length and height than the other two candidates.
Like Ogden, Adriana Aukusitino transferred into UAA and will look to hit the ground running. Recently playing at Highline Community College, the Service High grad and All-Cook Inlet Conference First Teamer will look to bring solid numbers in terms of assists, digs, and kills.
True Freshman Siobhan Johansen will look to carry her developing game into the college ranks. A as senior last season, she help lead Palmer High to a runner-up finish at state while, individually, she claimed Most Outstanding Setter for the tournament.
Green also pointed out that Chugiak High grad Robyn Burton has impressed him through the preseason.
“(Robyn) has done a great job for us so far up the middle and I think that she’s going to be a great player by the time she leaves,” said Green.
Even though she is a freshman, look for Burton to be yet another weapon for the growing UAA offensive arsenal.