It's difficult to imagine a more bizarre final point to a volleyball match than the one UAA used to seal a 3-1 victory over Seattle Pacific on Thursday.
A dump shot that looked like it was going to be a Seattle Pacific kill and forge a tie in the fourth set wound up bouncing from Erin Braun's hand to Morgan Hooe's foot to Brooke Pottle's hand and over the net for the Seawolves' winning point in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference opener for both teams.
The whole play spanned about two seconds and resulted in both excitement and confusion as UAA won 25-23, 23-25, 25-17, 25-23 at the Wells Fargo Sports Complex.
"I honestly don't even know how the play happened." said Hooe, a standout player at South High the past four seasons. "I just remember being on the ground and having to kick the ball up. Extremely bizarre, it's never happened in my whole 12 years of playing."
The moment the winning shot hit the floor, the crowd erupted and UAA coach Chris Green jumped onto the court with uncharacteristic enthusiasm.
The cheering quickly fell to a hush, however, when officials stopped to discuss the play.
Kicking a ball is legal, but there was some doubt as to whether Hooe might have touched the ball with her hand before she kicked it. The officials discussed it for about 30 seconds and declared the winning point good.
"I only touched it with my foot," said Hooe, a freshman who said she was nervous playing in her first GNAC match.
Hooe repeatedly elicited some of the biggest cheers of the night with diving hustle plays, part of a double-double that included 17 assists and 16 digs. UAA outside hitter Julia Mackey was another crowd favorite for her high-flying, thunderous spikes that resulted in a team-high 13 kills. Siobhan Johansen also recorded a double-double with 24 assists and 10 digs.
UAA's Katelynn Zanders hit for 11 kills, but the Seawolves finished with a relatively low .106 hitting percentage. UAA held Seattle Pacific to an even lower percentage of .101, in what Green called a good defensive showing for both squads.
Led by seven blocks from middle blocker Jodi Huddleston, UAA matched Seattle Pacific's 24 blocks.
"Both teams had a big block, so the hitters on both teams struggled," Green said. "To get a win when we're only hitting at 100, says a lot about our team. Getting the first GNAC win against a very, very good SPU team is big."
UAA improved to 7-6 overall and 1-0 in GNAC play, knocking Seattle Pacific to 4-5 overall, 0-1 GNAC.
The Falcons, led by a match-high 15 kills by Madi Cavell, were gaining momentum near the end of the fourth set, rallying from a six-point deficit to tie the score at 21-21 and trailing 24-23 prior to the match-winner from Pottle.
The final shot was Pottle's second set-winning kill of the night, giving the junior transfer from Glendale Community College in Arizona an early reputation for clutch play.
Pottle (nine kills) also scored the final two points of the first set, a thrilling opening stanza that could have gone to either team. She followed a vicious slam down the left sideline with a deftly placed push shot down the same sideline to win the set.
"That we came out on fire and were ready to win that first game is huge," Pottle said. "It's huge getting that momentum, because it might have been a completely different ballgame if we had not."
As for the dramatic match winner, Pottle said she was just trying to get the ball across the net and happened to find a hole in the defense.
"I couldn't really see it, either, I just know it went in," she said.
The Seawolves, who will host Montana State-Billings on Saturday at 7 p.m., struggled in the second set, but took control of the third set immediately and closed strong.
"I think we played well," Pottle said. "It might not have been our best game, but it was good enough to win."
Reach Jeremy Peters at firstname.lastname@example.org or 257-4335.