The Seawolves won the battle of the volleyball titans on Saturday, knocking off the nation's seventh-ranked team to grab sole possession of first place in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference.
UAA upended Western Washington 23-25, 26-24, 25-23, 19-25, 15-12 in a match between the GNAC's last remaining undefeated teams.
The Seawolves (15-6 overall, 9-0 GNAC) ignored a loud, pro-Vikings crowd to snap Western Washington's 17-match home winning streak in Bellingham, Wash.
UAA coach Chris Green stopped short of calling it the biggest regular-season win in program history, recalling his team's neutral-court victory over second-ranked San Bernardino in 2010.
But, he said, "as far as GNAC goes, this one ranks right up there."
Katelynn Zanders turned in an epic match, pounding 22 kills -- the most by anyone in the GNAC this season. She tallied four of them in the fifth set, including consecutive shots that put UAA up 13-9. Western Washington took a timeout and came back to make it 14-12, but UAA's Jodi Huddleston ended it with a quick kill from the middle.
"Katelynn Zanders stepped up," Green said. "She was really flying today. She was up in the air, hitting over blocks a bunch of the time, it was maybe the best match of her career. She was hitting balls to the floor right in front of their defense."
It was a monster stat-night for just about everyone. Even the team totals were eye-popping: UAA beat Western in the kill department, 65-62; Western won the digging duel, 104-98.
Brooke Pottle posted a double-double with 12 kills and 17 digs, Julia Mackey drilled 12 kills and Erin Braun added 10 to give the Seawolves four hitters in double figures.
Five reached double figures in digs -- Quinn Barker (23), Morgan Hooe (19), Siobhan Johansen (11), Zanders (15) and Pottle.
Johansen added 38 assists and five aces and Hooe chipped in 21 assists and two aces.
"It was a big win," Green said. "A good group effort."
UAA trailed 17-9 in the first set before charging back to make it 23-22 on Zanders' third kill of the match before finally falling.
The Seawolves eked out victory in the second set, which was tied 18 times before UAA became the first GNAC team this season to take a set from the Vikings.
In the third set UAA led 16-7 before Western mounted a big comeback to cut the lead to 20-18. Johansen served three of her aces to help UAA take the set.
UAA led the fourth set 4-1 only to see the Vikings score five straight points for a 6-4 lead they never relinquished.
Kayla Erickson drilled 19 kills and was in on seven blocks to lead Western (14-2, 7-1).
UAA begin the second half of the GNAC season this week at home. The Seawolves play third-place Northwest Nazarene on Thursday.
Whether or not UAA cracks the national poll before that match doesn't seem to concern Green -- he's more concerned about where the Seawolves will rank in the first West Region poll of the season, which doesn't come out for another week or two. That's the poll that ultimately determines which teams go to the playoffs.
For now, Green is content to return home with a huge road win -- and to believe that the Seawolves can be even better than they were in Bellingham.
"The team knows we didn't play our best -- defensively we could've played a lot better, and offensively we only hit .150 and we've been hitting almost .300.
"So we think we can play a lot better, and that's the good news."
Reach Beth Bragg at firstname.lastname@example.org or 257-4335.
By BETH BRAGG