UAA volleyball wins NCAA West Regional Championships

On their way to finishing the season off impressively, UAA volleyball played three back-to-back games to win them the well-deserved title of NCAA West Regional Champions. The triad of games began Thursday, Dec. 1 against Chico State, continued on Friday, Dec. 2 against Northwest Nazarene and finished up Saturday, Dec. 3 against West Regional runner-up Western Washington.

From a long weekend of games, UAA made it farther than any team in program history had made it. Senior standout Morgan Hooe realized the significance of this weekend to her and fellow senior Erin Braun.

“It’s been [an] amazing ride, and to play it out this far in our senior seasons has been impressive,” Hooe said.

Thursday, Dec. 1, UAA vs. Chico State

Game number one against Chico State barely presented a challenge to UAA. Although they were ranked No. 1 in the California Collegiate Athletic Association conference, with a 15-3 record, it still wasn’t enough to overtake UAA’s 19-1 record. The Seawolves still came in prepared.

Leah Swiss celebrates a point at the West Regional Championships, hosted by UAA at the Alaska Airlines Center. Photo credit: Adam Phillips

“They are dynamic, they are a team who was been very successful against in the big teams in the CCAA… we’re just trying to get better every day,” head coach Chris Green said.

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An immediate four-point lead started the Seawolves off with high energy, letting freshman right side hitter Diana Fa’amausili get the first two kills in of the night. After a quick lead, UAA began to struggle on their own errors giving Chico State the opportunity to boost their score and snag a three point lead at 15-12.

Pulling in towards the end of the set, the Seawolves quickly redeemed themselves, solidifying a tie at 21-21 and closing the set off with four successful serves by sophomore libero Kyla Militante-Amper. UAA snagged set one 25-21.

With a relatively close finish, the Seawolves changed up their game and sprang to action in the remaining two sets, pulling in upwards of a 10 point lead.

Taylor Noga recovers the play in a tough competition weekend at the Alaska Airlines Center. Photo credit: Adam Phillips

Set two ran smoothly with ample help from six consecutive serves each from Hooe and outside hitter Chrisalyn Johnson. With alternating kills from Fa’amausili and Swiss, the Seawolves collected their second win at 25-18.

With the trend of abundant serve streaks being consistent for the night, Militante-Amper continued it by stepping up to the line for nine consecutive serves to grant UAA a fast and immediate guarantee for a win in set three.

Morgan Hooe looks to pass the ball over the net against Chico State in the first round of the West Regional Championships on Dec. 1. Photo credit: Adam Phillips

After a rather long rally, Hooe managed to prove her exceptional ability to control less than favorable passes and get to the ball at any point on the court. With a quick mind and quicker feet, Hooe continued to impress the crowd with her extensive assist ability that pulled the Seawolves to game point. To switch things up, Militante-Amper gave Hooe a set that let her get the game winning kill in, at 25-15. This led the Seawolves to a 3-0 win against Chico State.

Friday, Dec. 2, UAA vs. Northwest Nazarene

Night two of the West Regional Championships but a bit more strain on the Seawolves. Northwest Nazarene played UAA to the fourth set in their regular season games but pushed boundaries a little more on Friday.

With five sets to the game, UAA and Northwest Nazarene toggled back and forth with wins until the Seawolves prospered and proved their dominance in set five.

Set one proved to not be much of a worry for the Seawolves. They took the lead early while Fa’amausili and Johnson got aggressive and kept adding kills to the game. Their lead took off and they won the set comfortably at 25-17.

It was here that things got rough for UAA and they were put into an immediate deficit. Northwest Nazarene rushed the set early and was already up by 10 points halfway through.

Morgan Hooe sets up a play for her teammates during this weekend's West Regional Championships. UAA moves on to the Elite Eight for the first time, Dec. 8 through 10 in Sioux Falls, ND. Photo credit: Adam Phillips

The Seawolves struggled to keep up and with their nerves on high alert, their offensive errors proved to be their biggest weakness. In high-stress situations, it’s easy to always look for the player who always pulls things together, Hooe kept her head in the game and controlled the ball, allowing UAA to tie it up at 22-22. Only a little too late, Northwest Nazarene took the set at 25-22.

Sets three and four continued to mimic the previous two, with both teams on high alert the kept the scores in close range only winning within several points. With Hooe and Swiss tag-teaming assists and kills, the two helped the sets run smoothly.

This offensive strength allowed UAA to prosper in set three at 25-12 but left them at the disadvantage in set four at 25-23.

With one remaining set, the future of this tournament for each team was put into a 15 point race. UAA is known to make great comebacks from this position but the beginning of set five wasn’t looking good for them.

Already at a four-point deficit, the Seawolves were struggling, but with a final pair up of Hooe and Swiss UAA pulled through on won at a final 15-10.

Saturday, Dec. 3, UAA vs. Western Washington

The West Regional Finals tops of at the farthest a UAA volleyball team has made it in program history, with the series of fortunate events and players that lead the team this far, the team lost a very valuable asset early in the game.

Only a few minutes into set one, Hooe suffered a leg injury that pulled her off the court. The Seawolves were at an initial disadvantage without her in set one.

Proving that they can work with adversity, freshman setter Madison Fisher was brought in to take Hooe’s place. Starting at a six-point deficit, the Seawolves powered through to close in on WWU at 19-20.

Although the circumstances weren’t the best, Green still realized it worked out well.

“We didn’t play our best and it was a bit frustrating but we pulled it out and we have to give a lot of credit to Madison [Fisher] for technically taking off her medical red shirt and stepping in,” Green said.

With unfortunate errors on UAA’s side, WWU prospered through and won at 25-19.

In a fortunate turnaround, Hooe steps back into the game early in set two, with a freshly braced knee. At four-four, Hooe couldn’t have come back at a better time. With an impressive comeback, the Seawolves quickly gained from Hooe’s presence pulling into a lead. In an extended set, UAA redeemed themselves with a win at 27-25.

Rolling into set three, the odds are in a fair split between the teams. Up until five points, they were head to head, but then UAA took off. Militante-Amper dove to the ground continuously to keep the ball in the air, while Hooe set up Swiss and Braun to get the kills in. The Seawolves took set three at 25-21.

With an opportunity to take it all, the Seawolves pulled into set four. Mimicking set two, WWU and UAA toggled the score all the way to the finish. Temporarily falling behind, Hooe, Swiss and Braun worked together to spark the offense, winning the set 25-23.

For the first time in history, UAA volleyball has been named the West Regional Champions at the end of a 3-1 game. An amazing comeback after a slow start helped the team prosper.

“It was a whole team effort and hopefully we can go to South Dakota and do it all again,” Green said.

UAA volleyball will travel to Sioux Falls, South Dakota to play in the NCAA Division II Elite Eight on Dec. 8 through Dec. 10.