A 469-day offseason ended Friday night for the UAA volleyball team, which returned to action with a four-set triumph over Saint Martin’s in Lacey, Washington.
The Seawolves hadn’t played since Dec. 6, 2019, when they lost a second-round West Region match to eventual national champion Cal State-San Bernardino.
An All-American and a freshman fueled UAA’s 25-23, 25-16, 27-29, 25-14 victory -- junior Eve Stephens racked up the 13th double-double of her career and newcomer Nicole Blue introduced herself with a match-high 16 kills.
“That was a huge relief to finally be able to get back out there tonight,” UAA coach Chris Green said in a release from the school. “We looked a little rusty at times, but overall I was pleased with our performance against a much-improved SMU team.
The pandemic wiped out the 2020-21 regular season, but the Seawolves are playing a few matches this spring.
Saint Martin’s tested them in the first set, tying it 23-23, but the Seawolves prevailed with back-to-back kills from Stephens, a right-side hitter from Palmer, and Blue, an outside hitter from Cerritos, California.
Stephens finished with 13 kills, 11 digs and four blocks and was part of an attack that hit an efficient .281%. Blue’s 16 kills came on .343 hitting, and senior Vera Pluharova had 10 kills on .304 hitting.
Freshmen made significant contributions. Blue’s big hitting night came with two aces and two assists, Mahala Kaapuni of Hilo had seven kills on .278 hitting, a solo block and two block assists, Riley Plumhoff of Anchorage had seven digs and two aces and Julia Fetko of Anchorage had five digs.
The veterans came through too. Pluharova had five block assists and four digs to go with her 10 kills, juniors Ellen Floyd (33 assists, 9 digs, 5 kills on .500 hitting) and Talie Leauanae (13 digs) were as solid as ever and sophomore Hannah Pembroke added five kills.
“We already knew what our veterans are capable of, but it was good to see our freshmen get confidence and show that they’re ready to play major roles,” Green said.
UAA heads to Seattle Pacific on Saturday for an afternoon doubleheader.