Young UAA volleyball team loses 2 matches

Beth Bragg

The UAA volleyball team opened the season with a pair of losses Friday at a tournament in Seaside, Calif. But those weren't the first losses of the season for the Seawolves, or the worst.

The Seawolves played with a lineup as notable for its missing players as it was for its many freshmen, who make up half of the 10-player squad.

In their first match at the Otter Classic, the Seawolves took No. 23-ranked Minnesota State to four sets before losing 25-20, 27-25, 21-25, 25-22. In their second match, they were swept for the first time in almost a year, losing 25-20, 25-14, 25-20 to San Francisco State.

Three players expected to lead UAA are gone, including two who quit unexpectedly in recent weeks.

Chief among the departures is middle hitter Robyn Burton, an all-West Region pick last season as a sophomore. Facing eligibility problems, she left the team a week before practice, and "I don't think she'll be back with us," coach Chris Green said Friday from California.

Also gone is all-conference outside hitter Ariel Austin, who had surgery after her sophomore season and decided not to return, Green said. Defensive specialist Quincy Haught, another top returner, quit the team a week into practice, UAA sports information director Nate Sagan said.

With those three players, UAA -- which is coming off three straight trips to the NCAA Division II playoffs -- might have started the season as a Top 25 team.

Without them, UAA is a young team that showed promise in its debut -- but also paid the price of inexperience.

"It was up and down," Green said. "We had lots of hitting errors. One thing we're really happy about was our passing. Our serve receive was very good, but we couldn't capitalize on that. Our hitters are pretty young and they made lots of errors."

Even so, it was freshmen who put a scare into the Mavericks of Minnesota State. Three of them -- Sarah Johnson and Katelynn Zanders of Anchorage and Julia Mackey of Fairbanks -- tallied double figures in kills, with Johnson getting 13, Mackey 12 and Zanders 10.

Mackey, who starred for West Valley, put up a .364 hitting percentage, while Johnson and Zanders, who were teammates at South High, each had one solo block and one block assist.

UAA also got a boost from its top returners. Senior setter Kimya Jafroudi had 42 assists and eight digs, senior Nikki Viotto served a pair of aces and added six digs and junior Siobhan Johansen came up with a team-high 17 digs.

After losing the first set, UAA was serving set point in the second when Minnesota State called a timeout. The Mavs regrouped to score three straight points, two on kills and one on a hitting error by Johnson.

"I think we had a shot to beat that team," Green said.

The Seawolves went fairly quietly in the second match. They hit a dismal .010 -- 26 kills, 25 errors on 103 attack attempts -- with four players posting negative attack percentages. Mackey was the best of the bunch with 11 kills and a .241 attack percentage.

San Francisco State put up 6.5 team blocks to further stymie the Seawolves, who got 10 digs apiece from Johansen and sophomore Jordan Bush.

The sweep was the first against UAA since Sept. 3 of last season, when Cal State-San Bernardino, then the third-ranked team in the country, beat the Seawolves in three sets.

UAA returns to action Saturday with two more tournament matches. The Seawolves play the Academy of Art at 8 a.m. ADT and meet tournament host Cal State-Monterey Bay at 6 p.m.

Anchorage Daily News