Wins at home keep UAA Volleyball team in playoff contention

The Seawolf volleyball team finished up their final home series of the season in style this past weekend with pair of crucial league wins that keep them in the thick of the postseason picture.

UAA got started in a blowout match against Northwest Nazarene University (NNU) on Nov. 3. The ‘Wolves bounced back from a defeat in their last game (a 1-3 loss at Seattle Pacific on Oct. 29) by showing no signs of shaken confidence. The end result would be a 3-0 thrashing of the visiting Crusaders.

“Seriously, we wanted to beat them more than anything this game,” said junior outside hitter Nikkie Viotto.

The win avenged an earlier 1-3 loss to the Crusaders down in Nampa, Idaho. The payback may have also came in one of the best-played game to date for the ‘Wolves.

“It was a huge win for us and we played very well,” said UAA Head Coach Chris Green. “It was just a good all-around game. We served pretty well, we passed pretty well and offensively/defensively we played great.

“That’s what I like to see, win or lose, if we play well, we’re happy as coaches,”

UAA started strong, quickly sweeping the first match 25-9, and claiming the first match point.

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Despite the solid first set score, however, UAA and NNU were much more equally matched throughout the second set. But it would be the Seawolves pulling away in the later stages of the frame, securing the second set 25-17.

Pumped from the first two sets and the fan support, it didn’t take long for the team to close out the third set 25-11 and take down a vital win in the standings.

“We knew it was an important game and we knew we had to take care of things on our own side of the court,” said sophomore middle blocker Robyn Burton.

Burton tallied 14 kills in the victory and was backed by junior right side hitter Ariel Austin with 11 kills. Viotto finished up with 6 kills and 10 digs on the night.

The win should move UAA, who holds ninth place in the West Region rankings, over NNU, who was holding onto seventh place. These rankings are critical to watch this late in the season as the top eight teams in the region qualify for the NCAA playoffs, a feat the Seawolves have reached the past two seasons.

UAA earned a .419 attack percentage over the course of the evening, their best percentage since 2000 as well as their highest ever in a GNAC match.

Senior outside hitter Jackie Matthisen also aided the team earning a double-double (12 kills, 11 digs) as well as sophomore defensive specialist Quincy Haught with a tem-high of 12 digs.

Confidence was key in the ‘Wolves game against NNU and it was something that the tam fully intended to bring into their game against CWU.

“We beat Central Washington last time we played them so we’re planning to give them another,” Viotto said.  “We’re planning to win.”

And the Seawolves did just that.

UAA (13-3 GNAC, 17-7 Overall) proved victorious against CWU using all five sets to get the 3-2 win over the Wildcats on Nov. 5.

The green and gold took the first set 25-21 and may have started to anticipate

another sweep.

That notion was quickly extinguished as CWU took the second set 22-25 proving that a win would not come easily.

The back and forth contest titled back into the Seawolves favor momentarily after they won the third set 25-22. CWU would rebound for a 21-25 win in the fourth.

Everything came down to the wire in the fifth set. The Seawolves managed to pull out the 15-11 win in the deciding frame and keep their playoff aspirations alive.

“We didn’t play as well as we did Thursday night unfortunately, but, we played a pretty high level on Thursday night,” Green said. “Central Washington actually did a great job, they are a talented team and surprisingly their record isn’t as good as it probably should be.”

The win also came as the program celebrated senior night and honored seniors Matthisen and McKenzie Moss.

“It was up and down because it’s senior night, so it’s my last game here and it’s just been a great four years here,” Matthisen said.

Matthisen contributed to the victory recording her sixth consecutive double-double and now sits at No. 3 on UAA’s all time kill list tallying a total of 1,095 kills throughout her career as a Seawolf.

“Thank God that we won that game,” Matthisen said.  “I know that I personally struggled a little bit but my team really helped me out and made me focus in and do what we needed to do for the win.”

Jafroudi also delivered a great performance, setting a career-high of 60 assists, the most by any Seawolf since 2009. Austin also set a career-high recording eight block assists.

The pair of wins moves the Seawolves to within just a half game of first in the GNAC. Seattle Pacific (14-3 GNAC, 20-6 Overall) remains atop the league, but, has played one more game than UAA and fellow second place team Western Washington (13-3 GNAC, 15-5 Overall).

The conference title figures to go the final day of the season in the three-team race. UAA will travel to take on Saint Martin’s and Western Oregon. Meanwhile, Western Washington hits the road to play Central Washington and Northwest Nazarene while Seattle Pacific will play their lone game of the weekend on the road at Montana State Billings.