Digging into the volleyball team’s weekend opponents

The Seawolf volleyball team is diving right into conference play this weekend with games versus the Seattle Pacific Falcons and Montana State Billings Yellowjackets. The first match pits the Seawolves against a Falcons team they split wins with in 2012.

Because it’s so early in the season, drawing conclusions from this year’s collection of stats is hard. The sample sizes are much too small. But there’s a lot to be learned from the ‘12 performances.

The Falcons’ main priority is making up for the loss of Cailin Fellows. Fellows finished her final season at Seattle Pacific by amassing 389 kills and having the second best average kills per set number in the GNAC (3.97).

Middle blocker’s Madi Cavell and Nikki Lowell should fill most of the void left by Fellows. Both reached 230 kills last season.

A chunk of the leftover production will be put on Ellie Britt’s plate. The sophomore outside hitter has posted solid totals throughout the first stretch of play.

If that trio plays well, the loss of Fellows won’t be too much of an advantage for the home team.

Junior libero Brianna Leenders is also going to be a huge factor Thursday night. Leenders has a knack for keeping the ball in play — her 445 digs proved that last season. She’s the type of player who can drag the ‘Wolves into long, tiring points.

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The Yellowjackets are in a similar boat as the Falcons. They’re relying on lowerclassmen to rise up and produce after losing their second place leader in kills.

The good news for them — and bad news for UAA — is that junior outside hitter Monica Grimsrud hasn’t gone anywhere. Grimsrud led the team with 349 kills last year, and showed she can play both sides by adding in 159 digs.

Fellow junior outside hitter Chelsey Walter looks to be the other one to watch at the net. She’s off to a hot start after having a promising sophomore campaign.

Returning setter Kyndal Williams could be the team’s MVP going forward. Williams was 39 shy of 1,000 assists last season. She can get the most out of the players on the floor.

On top of losing offensive firepower, the Yellowjackets also waived goodbye to the 796 digs Erin Compton and Morgan Moss combined for. That loss might just sink the boat.

Lastly, it should be noted that middle blocker Taylor Adams is a product of A.J. Dimond High School. She’s had a slow start to the season but held down a prominent role on the Yellowjackets last year.

The Seawolves are in a great position to win the weekend. While the Falcons will be a stiff test, the Yellowjackets are a favorable matchup on paper.

To snatch both victories, the Green and Gold must do more of the same: protect the net, put Katelynn Zanders and Julia Mackey in spots to kill and stay active on defense.