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Seawolves make West Region volleyball playoffs

Beth Bragg

The UAA volleyball team is coming full circle.

The Seawolves earned a berth in the NCAA Division II West Region playoffs Monday, an achievement that puts UAA in a first-round match against the same team they opened the season against in August.

UAA (21-9) will play BYU-Hawaii on Thursday, Dec. 5, at the eight-team regional tournament in San Bernardino, Calif.

BYU-Hawaii swept the Seawolves back on Aug. 29, a match that launched a 24-1 season for the Seasiders.

"I think the girls are excited to play a team we have already played," UAA coach Chris Green said. "I especially like that we know they are very good and that we want to show how much we've improved since then."

BYU is the defending region champion and the tournament's No. 2 seed. The top seed went to San Bernardino (25-5), which as a result gets to host the tournament. UAA is seeded seventh.

The trip will mark the fourth playoff appearance in five years for the Seawolves and Green, who is in his sixth season with the team.

UAA will take a three-match winning streak into the tournament. Maybe more significantly, it owns a nine-match winning streak on the road, so playing a big match on an unfriendly or unfamiliar court shouldn't faze the Seawolves.

"We've done so well throughout the season on the road that we'll have some confidence," Green said. "It's definitely not going to scare us."

The week-long break before the playoffs start should help injured outside hitter Julia Mackey return to action. A sophomore from Fairbanks, Mackey was the Great Northwest Athletic Conference's Freshman of the Year last season but has been sidelined since mid-October.

"Julia will be able to play; the question is whether she'll be at 100 percent or not," Green said. She just started jumping again, he said.

Less certain is whether freshman setter Morgan Hooe, who missed the last two matches with an illness, will be ready to go. UAA has used Hooe and senior Siobhan Johansen to run a 4-2 offense this season, but Johansen ran a 5-1 offense with success last week.

UAA is one of three GNAC teams in the tournament. GNAC champion Western Washington (23-3) and Central Washington (15-11) are the others.

The Seawolves split with Western and Central this season. They lost single matches to three playoff teams -- BYU-Hawaii, San Bernardino and third-seeded UC-San Diego.

Green, who became head coach in 2008, previously took UAA to the playoffs in 2011, 2010 and 2009. The team's only other playoff appearances came in 1989 and 1990.

Zanders, Barker honored

A road sweep that wrapped up the regular season earned UAA a sweep of the GNAC's weekly volleyball awards.

Katelynn Zanders was named the top offensive player and Quinn Barker won the defensive award.

Barker, a junior libero, had 36 digs, no reception errors, three aces and eight assists to help UAA sweep Montana State-Billings on Thursday and Seattle Pacific on Saturday.

Zanders, a 5-9 sophomore outside hitter, totaled 40 kills with a .342 attack percentage.

NCAA Division II West Region

San Bernardino, Calif

Dec. 5 first round

(all times AST)

11 a.m. -- UC San Diego (25-5) vs. Dixie State (17-9)

1:30 p.m. -- BYU-Hawaii (24-1) vs. UAA (21-9)

4 p.m. -- Sonoma State (25-5) vs. Western Washington (23-3)

6:30 p.m. -- CSU San Bernardino (25-5) vs. Central Washington (15-11)


By BETH BRAGG
bbragg@adn.com