UAA Athletics

True fact: As new season approaches, UAA owns college hockey’s 2nd longest winning streak

After a rough hockey season that ultimately cost their former coach his job, the Seawolves enter the new season with this startling claim to fame:

They own the second-longest winning streak in Division I hockey.

It's true.

UAA last season wrapped up a dismal 4-26-4 showing with a pair of wins over the rival UAF Nanooks. That two-game winning streak trails only the four-game winning streak that national champion Minnesota-Duluth ended with.

Worth noting: There are 60 Division I hockey teams in the nation. Of those, 57 advanced to playoffs last season and all but one of them — Duluth — lost their final game.

The three teams that didn't make the postseason were UAA, Lake Superior State and Arizona State. While the Seawolves closed their regular season with a sweep of the Nanooks in Fairbanks, Lake Superior State lost its regular-season finale to Ferris State and Arizona State lost its to Michigan.

Inheriting UAA's winning streak is new coach Matt Curley, who will make his UAA debut Friday night at the McDonald Center in Eagle River. Curley and the Seawolves will take on Simon Fraser University of British Columbia in a 7:07 p.m. exhibition game.

On Saturday, the Seawolves will stay on campus for the annual Green and Gold intrasquad scrimmage at 3 p.m. at the Wells Fargo Sports Complex.

Curley heads up a brand-new coaching staff at the school, which parted ways with former coach Matt Thomas after last season's 4-26-4 campaign.

His assistant coaches are Mark Phalon, who most recently spent three seasons as an assistant coach at Hobart College, a Division III school in New York, and Matt Bruneteau, who spent the last two seasons at Stevenson University, a Division III school in Maryland.

The coaches are taking over a young squad that includes 15 freshmen and sophomores, eight juniors and five seniors.

One of the seniors — forward Alec Butcher of Anchorage — is still waiting for a ruling on his eligibility from the NCAA, which is determining whether Butcher has one more season left or if his college career is over. Butcher sat out for more than a full year after transferring to UAA from Sacred Heart.

Butcher is one of four Alaskans on UAA's roster. Others are sophomore forward Drake Glover of Anchorage, freshman forward Tanner Schachle of Wasilla and sophomore defenseman Aaron McPheters of Anchorage.

UAA opens the regular season Oct. 6-7 with a two-game Western Collegiate Hockey Association series against Colorado College at Sullivan Arena.

Volleyball team returns

After going 3-1 on its last road trip, the UAA volleyball team returns to the Alaska Airlines Center for conference matches Thursday and Saturday.

The Seawolves (11-3 overall, 4-2 Great Northwest Athletic Conference) play Concordia (7-6, 4-2) on Thursday and Western Oregon (5-8, 2-4) on Saturday.

Saturday's match will mark a homecoming of sorts for Western Oregon middle blocker Sophie Hall. Through 13 matches, Hall, a 6-foot redshirt sophomore, ranks second for the Wolves in blocks with 42 and third in kills with 80.

Hall is a Colony High graduate, as is UAA freshman middle blocker Eve Stephens, although the two were never high school teammates — Stephens joined the Knights the year after Hall graduated.

The 6-1 Stephens is part of UAA's big block that ranks as the sixth-best in Division II with 2.64 blocks per set. Leading the charge is Vera Pluharova (1.25 per set) and Tara Melton (1.20 per set).

Stephens has established herself as a ferocious hitter, hitting better than .300 in nine of 14 matches and notching double-figure kills in six straight. She pounded a season-high 23 last week in a road victory over Montana's Rocky Mountain College.

Another of UAA's dangerous weapons is senior outside hitter Chrisalyn Johnson, who has recorded double-doubles in eight matches so far.

UAA is likely to be without setter Casey Davenport, last year's GNAC Freshman of the Year. She missed UAA's last two matches with an injury and her return this week is questionable.

Before Davenport's injury, UAA was using a two-setter offense with Davenport and freshman Ellen Floyd; since the injury, the Seawolves have used a 5-1 offense with Floyd as the only setter.

Former athletes return to coach

Once a Seawolf, always a Seawolf.

UAA in recent days has announced the hiring of two assistant coaches, both of them former athletes at the school.

Sierra Afoa, a three-year player for the women's basketball team, has rejoined the squad as an assistant coach. She joins a staff that also includes her sister, Shaina Afoa, who is the top assistant to head coach Ryan McCarthy.

Afoa, skipped her final season of eligibility to focus on academics, was a gritty forward who averaged 4.6 rebounds as a sophomore and 4.5 as a junior.

Returning to the gymnastics team as a coach is Marie-Sophie Boggasch, a four-year letterwinner who competed in vault, bars and floor exercise.

Boggasch will be a graduate assistant for second-year head coach Tanya Ho. A 4.0 student who graduated with a degree in aviation technology in 2016, Boggasch is pursuing a masters degree in interdisciplinary studies.

Beth Bragg

Beth Bragg wrote about sports and other topics for the ADN for more than 35 years, much of it as sports editor. She retired in October 2021. She's contributing coverage of Alaskans involved in the 2022 Winter Olympics.