It all came down to the fifth set for the UAA volleyball team Thursday night at the Wells Fargo Sports Complex, and the Seawolves delivered in a 25-19, 25-21, 26-28, 17-25, 15-10 win over Central Washington that marked the Great Northwest Athletic Conference opener for both teams.
Momentum wasn’t on the Seawolves’ side, having lost two straight sets, but they came out with renewed energy after a sideline pep talk from senior setter Kimya Jafroudi.
“I just told them, 'I need a little more from you guys,’” Jafroudi said. “ 'Just jump higher, I will get you the ball and we’ll win.’ I was like, 'We’re gonna win this game,’ and they pulled through, so I’m very proud of my team.”
Jafroudi, who finished with 59 of UAA’s 64 assists, recorded eight in the final set to help the Seawolves outhit the Wildcats .300 to .111 in the fifth.
UAA (6-3, 1-0 GNAC) jumped to a 3-0 lead in the final set, each player accompanying the early points with enthusiastic gestures and shouts. The Wildcats (5-4, 0-1 GNAC) battled back to 6-6, but the Seawolves closed on a 9-4 run and sealed the win when Central Washinton’s Emmy Dolan drilled a spike into the net.
Five UAA players reached double-digit kill totals — freshmen Julia Mackey and Sarah Johnson led the way with 16 each. The Seawolves’ front line continually fired hard shots and kept the pressure on the Wildcats. With only three upperclassmen on the team, the Seawolves are still finding themselves, and UAA coach Chris Green said winning the first GNAC match should be a great confidence booster.
“It’s huge here at home, especially for our young team,” Green said. “We would have liked to have closed it out in three, but maybe this grew us up a little bit.”
The Wildcats managed to get back in the match by mixing a short serve into their attack, something Green said the Seawolves should have handled better, but it threw them out of rhythm in the third set. The Wildcats were nearly flawless in the fourth set, hitting .607 to the Seawolves .275.
“It’s hard to beat a team that’s hitting .600,” Green said. “I have to give them credit. They did an excellent job of getting better and better as the game went on.”
Dolan led the Wildcats with 17 kills and delivered timely hits during the third and fourth sets to keep her team’s hopes alive. With the Wildcats trailing 26-25 and facing match point for the third time in the third set, a Dolan kill tied the set at 26-26. Dolan then assisted on a block to seal a 28-26 third-set victory.
Dolan was there again in the fourth set, drilling a shot to the floor in the UAA backcourt to close out a 25-17 win and even the match at two sets apiece. Thursday’s match was the ninth straight road match for the Wildcats to open their season, and Central Washington coach Mario Andaya said playing in Anchorage is never easy.
“This is one of the toughest, if not the toughest place to play,” Andaya said. “We gotta learn from this. UAA came out strong, and it took us out of our game for a while.”
The Seawolves also benefited from the addition of Maureen Sabado, a sophomore who missed the team’s first eight matches because of an eligibility issue. Sabado racked a double-double with 10 blocks and 10 kills, many of which were the product of thunderous blows. Sabado is used to playing on the right side but handled middle-blocker duties Thursday.
“She stepped up, Maureen did a good job in the middle,” Green said.
The Seawolves will continue to count on young players stepping up when they host Northwest Nazarene on Saturday. Green said the play of Mackey, Johnson and fellow freshman Katelynn Zanders (15 kills) will go a long way in determining how good the Seawolves can be.
“If we can get all three of them on at the same night, we’ll be a hard team,” Green said.
Find Jeremy Peters at email@example.com or call him at 257-4335.