Coming off a loss against the rival UAF Nanooks and a pair of GNAC wins, the UAA volleyball team sets its sights on a pair of crucial conference games. One will come against a new foe while the other will be against an opponent the ‘Wolves know all too well.
The Seawolves will get their first look at the team from Simon Fraser, the newcomer to the GNAC. The Clan (0-4 GNAC, 0-8 overall) may be weak in the standings, but UAA head coach Chris Green thinks SFU cannot be overlooked.
“They’ve played some pretty good teams and played them close, so I’m sure they are better than their record shows us,” Green said, who is in his third year at the helm of the UAA program.
SFU will get their first taste of the Seawolves home court, the Wells Fargo Sports Complex, which has seen the Green and Gold win 10 consecutive matches at home. The match is set to go on Sept. 23 at 7p.m.
Sept. 25 will see the Vikings of Western Washington invade the WFSC in what is sure to be a showdown between two GNAC frontrunners.
Western Washington University (WWU), ranked 18th, (2-0 GNAC, 5-1 overall) were picked first in the GNAC in preseason polls, a mere 5 points ahead of the second place pick, UAA. Both teams received four of a possible nine first place votes.
“Western is probably the favorite to win the GNAC still,” Green said. “ They have everyone back from last year and are off to a good start. It will be a challenge for sure.”
Just a few weeks ago, UAA took a road trip in which they played eight games in nine days, one of which put them up against some of the best teams in the West Region. Both UAA and WWU played in the Western Oregon Invitational and were up against some of the same opponents.
The Vikings were able to come out with wins over then 10th ranked Metro State (3-0) and UC-San Diego (3-1), two teams that got the best of the Seawolves during the same tourney.
However, the Vikings only loss comes at the hands of then-2nd ranked Cal-San Bernardino (0-3). UAA, on the other hand, swept CSB 3-0 in their match down in the WOU tourney.
That stunning upset over the Coyotes showed Green one of the things he and his team have been looking for all season – consistency.
“That was a match where everything came together and it showed us we can play with one of the best in the country,” Green said.
Overall, the Seawolves went 4-4 on the trip, battled with fatigue and were still getting to know each other on the court.
“We lost a couple of those games because we didn’t execute on our side of the court,” Green said. “We’re really looking for some consistency as we go into GNAC play.”
The new “6-2” attack system is also something that Green and the team are experimenting with.
A 6-2 system has two setters on the court as opposed to a 5-1 system, in which only one setter is out there.
“Nice thing about a 6-2 is you always have three hitters and a big block up there and can attack from either side,” Green said.
Despite having many new faces on the team, the amount of newcomers has done nothing but strengthened the squad as opposed to slowing the defending champs down.
“As a player from last year, we want to win again and expect it,” Nikki Viotto said, a sophomore defensive specialist who hails from Eagle River. “The newcomers this year understand that goal and are willing to work hard. I definitely got to hand it to them for how they’ve all stepped up.”
New faces like freshman setter Siobhan Johansen averages 5.84 assists per set and freshman middle blocker Robyn Burton averages 1.51 kills per. This can only bode well for UAA who will have their hands full against SFU and WWU.
The Vikings come into the match with a 2-0 record away from their home in Bellingham, Washington. The Seawolves come in undefeated at home.
“We’re definitely out to get them and they’re out to get us because we beat them twice last season and they weren’t too happy about it,” Viotto said.
As the old saying goes “something has to give.”