The UAA volleyball team will likely be tired this weekend when the SpringHill Suites Invitational comes to an end, but the Seawolves started the three-day, round-robin tournament on a good note Thursday.
UAA swept American International 25-22, 25-13, 25-18 in its home opener at the Wells Fargo Sports Complex, getting a match-high nine kills from Julia Mackey.
“It’s tiring but it’s fun,” Mackey said of playing four matches in three days. “It’ll help us get mentally prepared for (Great Northwest Athletic Conference) play.”
The GNAC schedule, which usually requires the Seawolves (2-2) to play two matches per week, starts Sept. 19.
“I have big expectations for us,” Mackey said. “We’re already doing really well in practice. We’re quick to figure things out, which helps the coaches.”
Strong defense characterized Thursday’s win. UAA libero Quinn Barker notched a match-high 17 digs to go with a career high 15 digs from Katelynn Zanders and the Seawolves held American International (0-1) to negative hitting percentages in each set.
Freshman setter Morgan Hooe chipped in 10 digs to go with a match-high 20 assists, and the Seawolves finished with a .157 hitting percentage.
“We started off a little shaky,” UAA coach Chris Green said. “The second game was a lot better. We played better defense, dug some good balls and our block was big tonight.”
Led by five blocks from Mackey, the Seawolves finished with 11 team blocks to American International’s four.
UAA will face Texas A&M-Kingsville on Friday and play two matches Saturday, one against Notre Dame De Namur and one against Augustana.
“We just want to get better,” Green said. “Tomorrow night we play a very competitive team from Texas. We’re gonna have to step it up.”
UAA started the first set in a 10-2 hole before rallying to tie it at 11-11 and then pull away for a win. UAA kept it rolling in the second set, establishing a 9-2 lead on back-to-back kills from Mackey, followed by a block from Jodi Huddleston that set the defensive tone. The third set quickly went UAA’s way as well, with two straight aces from Siobhan Johansen helping to establish control in the form of a 10-5 lead.
“It’s my fourth year and seeing the team grow and all the new girls coming in, just the talent that we have this year, it’s awesome to see everyone come together and play how we’re playing,” said Johansen, who finished with 13 assists. “I love our energy on the court and I love our cheering.”
It’s not unusual to see volleyball teams celebrate each point scored, but Johansen said effective cheering can sometimes offer a winning psychological edge. It also doesn’t hurt to have big hitters like Mackey and Zanders, who each ripped a number of hard spikes throughout the match. Setters Hooe and Johansen both displayed a soft passing touch, and the 6-foot-1 Huddleston was tough at the net throughout.
“We have some firepower out there,” Green said. “We have some great hitters. It’s just a matter of getting them to be consistent.”
The Seawolves started their season with a 1-2 effort in a tournament in Hawaii, and next weekend will travel to another tournament in California.
Reach Jeremy Peters at firstname.lastname@example.org or 257-4335.
By JEREMY PETERS