The first time the University of Alaska Anchorage and Seattle Pacific University volleyball teams faced off this season, the Falcons gave the surging Seawolves all they could handle in a match that went the down to the wire in five sets.
That match took place last month in Washington but the second and final meeting between the two Great Northwest Athletic Conference foes was played in the Last Frontier on Thursday night and wasn’t nearly as close. UAA swept SPU 3-0 (25-18, 25-15, 25-13) at the Alaska Airlines Center to maintain an unbeaten conference record.
“The competition is really high so you always come out ready for battle,” UAA outside hitter Eve Stephens said. “To just win in three and get it over with feels really good because it’s all our hard work put out there.”
The Seawolves’ win completed a regular season sweep of their conference foes and extended UAA’s impressive winning streak to 12 straight matches while snapping the Falcons’ win streak at five straight.
“They had been on a hot run for the past couple games so they were really on a high,” UAA standout setter Ellen Floyd said. “Coming out and immediately shutting that down was a really important step for us in that first set and then it just flowed easy from there.”
The Seawolves frontcourt was an absolute brick wall, out-blocking their opponents by a landslide 22 block assists to just two by the Falcons. Their excellent serving was also a major key to their victory.
“We kept their offense from really getting on track and when they did get a good pass, we had a good blocking night,” UAA coach Chris Green said. “We didn’t see what we saw in Seattle because of our tougher serving and because we blocked even better than we did (in that match).”
The Seawolves were led by Stephens and Floyd in a swift victory in which they controlled the match from start to finish. Stephens finished with the team lead in kills with 13 and tied fellow senior Talia Leauanae for the lead in aces with three.
“Being in a front row trying to block is much easier when you have a tough serve and I think we served really well tonight,” Stephens said. “We only really had to focus on two hitters at a time.”
Floyd recorded a double-double by leading the team with 24 assists and 11 digs. She also tallied five kills and had a season-high five total blocks, which included the team’s only solo block.
“When she’s in the front row, the other team has to be concerned about her attacking on the second contact and that opens up our hitters a little bit,” Green said. “She distributed the ball well and made some good defensive plays.”
Floyd literally laid it all out on the line for the Seawolves in the GNAC showdown. She nearly flipped over the media table in a diving attempt to keep the ball in play during the second set.
“When we have a tough serve, it really helps because it helps us focus on who is going to be getting the ball on the other side and then we can clamp down on them,” Floyd said.
UAA is now the ninth-ranked team in the country, the home fans in attendance were loud and proud and provided the UAA with plenty of energy and support to feed off.
“It’s always nice to be playing at home,” Green said. “I think the crowd always helps us. I don’t know how many people were here but it was loud at times.”
Stephens admitted that the pressure of playing in front a home crowd can be a little “nerve-wracking” at times but loves the “constant support” they receive.
“They’re like an extension of our team,” Floyd said. “We have six on the court but but then we have more than that because we have the whole fanbase backing us which is really nice. You feel the support on the court as well as off the court.”
Green believes that this resounding win will provide the team with even more confidence heading into the second half of their round-robin conference schedule with another GNAC coming to town on Saturday in Montana Billings State.
“We just need to keep getting better as the season goes on and hopefully we’re improving as fast or faster than our opponents,” he said.