Big block boosts UAA volleyball team past Colorado Christian

bbragg@adn.comSeptember 9, 2013 

The last time the UAA volleyball team had a day off from either practicing or playing was Sept. 1 -- although the day off didn't begin until 5 a.m., when the Seawolves arrived in Anchorage after flying through the night on their way home from a season-opening road trip in Hawaii.

The team's next day off is Wednesday, which they'll spend traveling to San Diego for a three-day tournament.

If the Seawolves are fatigued, it didn't show Monday in a 90-minute sweep of Colorado Christian. Playing its sixth match in five days, UAA put up a suffocating block in a 25-17, 25-22, 25-16 victory at the Wells Fargo Sports Complex.

"We're tired, but it's easy to push through it," sophomore outside hitter Katelynn Zanders said.

Especially if you're winning. Monday marked UAA's fourth victory in five matches, which gives the team a 5-3 record, including a 4-1 mark at home.

The Seawolves flourished behind a big block that produced a season-high 15.5 blocks. Middle blocker Jodi Huddleston, a 6-foot-1 senior, had a career-high effort at the net with nine total blocks, including one solo block.

The Seawolves averaged five blocks per set, nearly doubling their season average of 2.24 -- which in turn is an improvement over last season's 1.8 per-set average. A concerted effort over the summer is responsible for the improvement, Huddleston said.

"We're jumping a lot higher than last year," she said. "We did blocking training over the summer, and it really helped."

Each player was given drills to work on over the summer, as well as little notes from their coaches offering advice and inspirational quotes. "We held each other accountable," Huddleston said, by texting progress reports.

Against Colorado Christian, six players had a hand in at least one block. Maureen Sabado, a fiery 5-10 junior from Kodiak, had seven block assists, Julia Mackey and Erin Braun each chipped in four, Zanders had three and Caitlyn McInerney added two, one of them a solo block.

"The block was so big we didn't get a lot of digs," UAA coach Chris Green said. "I think it'll be one of our strengths."

Colorado Christian (1-3), which was coming off three matches in a weekend tournament in Fairbanks, got double-digit kills from Taylor Sturms (13) and Mollie Bailey (10).

Colorado Christian threatened in the second set, leading most of the way, including 21-18 when Green called a timeout. Sparked by Zander's three kills, UAA went on a 7-1 run to take the set.

Zanders and Mackey (9 kills) led UAA's attack, with Sabado and Huddleston each adding six kills and newcomer Brooke Pottle getting five in a versatile performance that also included 11 digs and two aces.

Once they return from San Diego, the Seawolves begin Great Northwest Athletic Conference play. They'll also move to their usual Thursday-Saturday match schedule -- no more Monday matches, no more stretches with five matches in six days.

Not that anyone is complaining about all of the recent work.

"That's what the season's about," Green said. "They'd rather play than practice. If we weren't playing we'd be practicing today, and we practice for two hours. Here it's just one ball, 12 people, so practice is probably harder."

Reach Beth Bragg at bbragg@adn.com or 257-4335.

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