The fourth set of UAA’s Great Northwest Athletic Conference volleyball victory over UAF on Saturday felt more like a fifth set.
The crowd cheered and chanted as the lead changed hands nine times in what turned out to be the final frame at the Wells Fargo Sports Complex, where the Seawolves put away the Nanooks 25-23, 25-21, 23-26, 28-26 and earned a season sweep in the intrastate rivalry.
“It’s a big rivalry and your place in the GNAC doesn’t matter when we play each other,” said UAA’s Katelynn Zanders, who provided the final two kills in the match. “Both teams always play their best game against each other.”
UAA improved to 18-8 overall and 12-2 in the GNAC, and UAF fell to 4-21, 3-11 GNAC.
UAA outhit UAF .156 to .122, but had its share of problems. The Seawolves committed 31 hitting errors, a glaring statistic UAA coach Chris Green wasn’t happy to see.
The Seawolves, now on a three-match winnings streak, are tied with Western Washington for the lead in the conference and will host the Vikings — who they beat on the road earlier this season — on Thursday at 7 p.m.
“They don’t make mistakes,” Green said of Western Washington. “I’ve seen some games where they have four or five errors, total. We’ll have to be a lot better.”
All sets in Saturday’s match were tightly contested, with UAA pulling away at the end of the first two and taking a 2-0 lead into the break. UAF came out swinging in the third set and took advantage of a .000 hitting percentage from the Seawolves to forge a 25-23 win in a set that was once tied 22-22.
“They played very well,” Green said. “They’re a talented team and have two good hitters on the outside. They passed pretty well and played good defense against us too.”
The fourth set was a see-saw battle from the outset, including ties at 9-9, 17-17 and 22-22. UAA warded off set point on a kill from Brooke Pottle, tying it at 24-24. The set was tied 25-25 when a Pottle serve struck the net on the UAA side, but somehow trickled over to the UAF side and fell in for a point.
“Oh, my gosh, it bounced off the top and then went over,” Pottle said. “They called a timeout and everyone was like, ‘don’t ever do that again.’ ”
The Nanooks knotted it back up at 26-26, but Zanders delivered two vicious spikes to seal the match. Zanders threw both hands in the air in celebration when the last spike ricocheted off UAF blockers and bounded into press row.
“It means a lot that I can help out my team in a moment of tense turmoil,” she said.
Zanders led UAA with 18 kills on .275 hitting, and Pottle ripped 15 kills. Zanders, Pottle and Quinn Barker each turned in 16 digs, with setters Siobhan Johansen and Morgan Hooe combining for 46 assists.
“Brooke Pottle had a heck of a game,” Green said. “Thank goodness for her, because she was on fire.”
Sam Harthun and Keri Knight each notched 15 kills for UAF, with Katelyn Camp (35 assists), Samantha Hesterman and Tessa Butterfield all accumulating 11 digs.