Here is just another reminder of how much the GNAC can be an emotional rollercoaster for those teams who are in the hunt for the playoffs.
Case subject: UAA women’s basketball team, the 15th ranked team in the land.
The Seawolves are on top of the world on Jan 20. after a complete defensive shutdown of the Simon Fraser Clan 65-52. The ‘Wolves, who can be “tough as calculus” on the defensive side of the ball for opponents, kept the Clan’s (4-9 Overall, 1-7 GNAC) star forward Nayo Raincoack Ekunwe in check all night. The GNAC leading scorer (20.7 ppg) and rebounder (12.0 rpg) was stifled by UAA pressure and held to 10 points and nine boards.
On top of that, the win kept UAA (15-5 Overall, 6-3 GNAC) right in the middle of the GNAC title hunt and was a historic one for senior guard Nikki Aden.
She eclipsed Seawolf greats such as Robin Graul, Allegra Stoetzel, Heidi Alderman, and former teammate Rebecca Kielpinski to become the most victorious player in UAA Womens Basketball history.
Aden moved ahead of Kielpinski with her 98th victory in the green and gold of UAA.
The rollercoaster came off the track though two days later when the 10th ranked Western Washington (15-1 Overall, 8-0 GNAC) played spoiler and used a big second half to take a decisive 81-61 win over the ‘Wolves at the Wells Fargo Sports
Complex. This all came after UAA held a slight 36-35 lead after the first half.
It was just UAA’s fifth home loss in the past five years and one of the most lopsided defeats under fifth year UAA Head Coach Tim Moser.
“In short, they kicked our tail and I’ll just leave it at that,” Moser said. “They pushed us around and our kids didn’t respond.”
The general consensus around the Seawolf locker room was that their defense and energy was to the main culprit for the loss.
“We need to get back to what has made us a championship program and that starts with being committed on the defensive end,” Moser said.
The players were also on the same page with their coach.
“They came out with more energy than us,” Aden said. “We got away from the scouting report and what worked for us.”
Aden spoke of the historic record that she had set earlier in the week amidst the loss to Western, which had become now bittersweet week for the Portland, Oregon native.
“It’s a great honor and I have to thank the teams I’ve played with and Coach Moser,” Aden said. “I guess right now it’s kind of hard to appreciate it but when all is said and done, I’ll look back on it and see it’s a great accomplishment.”
Coach Moser also spoke of the record and the message was again clear of how much of and up and down week it had been for the team.
“It’s nice for her that she could possibly average 25 wins per season here, but right now, it hurts we couldn’t get number 99 for her,” Moser said.
The Seawolves will continue their current four-game home stand this week and will look to make up ground quickly and get Aden that 99th win.
And who better to do it against than their biggest rival in the GNAC.
After taking on #10 WWU this past week, the ‘Wolves get no time to relax as they next welcome #20 Seattle Pacific Falcons to (12-4 Overall, 6-2 GNAC) rekindle a rivalry with no love lost.
“SPU is a very talented team just like Western,” Moser said. “We will have to be better if we want to win it.”
The two perennial GNAC powers have played each other nine times since the 2007-08 season and have combined for three GNAC titles. Both teams also have qualified for the West Region Playoffs the past three seasons.
The road to the postseason always seems to go through one another as well.
In 2007-08, the Seawolves fell twice in the regular season to the eventual GNAC Champion Falcons. However, the ‘Wolves would get the last laugh and defeated the previously unbeaten Falcons during the West Region Championship in Seattle. UAA would move onto what would turn out to be the National Semifinals.
The 2008-09 season saw the teams split the regular season series between one another but would see the Seawolves take their first conference title. UAA went on to defeat their rivals once again in Seattle and move onto their second consecutive National Semifinals.
Last season finally saw a bit of redemption for SPU, who wound up winning all three contests against the ‘Wolves, including the West Region Semifinals, once again in Seattle.
So far this year, SPU held serve and won on their home court against the Seawolves handing UAA a 67-71 loss in Seattle back on Jan. 3.
“They want it as bad as we do so we have to prepare hard for them and be ready to take it to them,” Aden said.
After that, the Seawolves will get finish up the week with a much-improved Montana State Billings (9-8 Overall, 5-4 GNAC) team.
Though UAA has had all the glory recently against the Yellowjackets (seven straight wins dating back to 2007), MSUB is quietly trying to make a playoff push themselves and will present a whole new challenge for the ‘Wolves, something not lost on Moser.
“Montana, in my opinion, has some of the most talent in the league so we need to start playing for our life to get into the regional tournament,” Moser said.
No time for rest, it’s back onto the rollercoaster and back to work for UAA.