Entering the second half of its conference season at just under a .500 record, the UAA volleyball team hopes to undertake a bit of a redemption tour.
The Seawolves had to settle for progress instead of payback on Thursday at the Alaska Airlines Center.
UAA battled but ultimately fell to Simon Fraser 3-1 (26-24, 16-25, 25-18, 25-22) in a Great Northern Athletic Conference matchup.
The Red Leafs had swept the Seawolves during a September matchup, and while the loss Thursday dropped the Seawolves to 4-6 in the GNAC and 12-13 overall, it was considerably more competitive than the previous meeting.
“We’ve got a great opportunity in front of us, and we talked about that, hoping to go on maybe on a little redemption tour here,” UAA head coach Stacie Meisner said. “But ultimately, it’s just, you know, taking it day by day and just getting a little bit better each day and taking it one game at a time.”
The first set was tightly contested throughout as neither team led by more than 2 points.
With the score tied 24-24, Red Leafs outside hitter Jocelyn Sherman helped her team close out the first with a kill and ace in back-to-back points.
UAA fell behind early in the second set, trailing 11-5. But the Seawolves battled back, erasing the Simon Fraser lead and taking control of the set. UAA won 20 of the next 25 points to knot the match at 1-1.
“At this level of volleyball, it really is about just serving and passing,” Meisner said. “That’s what we were able to do in the second half of that second set — was just serve aggressive and keep Simon out of system. When they’re out of system, it gives us an advantage defensively and helps us run our offense in transition.”
Nicole Blue was the most effective UAA player both on offense and at the service line. Blue, a senior outside hitter, led the team with 16 kills and three aces.
With the match tied 1-1, Simon Fraser took an early lead in the third and continued to extend it as the set progressed. UAA got as close as 10-9 in the early going. But Simon Fraser went on a 12-4 run to run away with the set and take a 2-1 advantage. The Simon Fraser defense shined in the set, keeping points alive with excellent back-row play and scrambling.
“We talk in our gym just about never stop playing, you know, even if you think you’ve made a mistake that might end the rally,” Meisern said. “You’ve got you got to stay engaged and stay involved. And until that ball hits the ground, you’ve just got to keep playing. And kudos to Simon, they do an excellent job of that. I think that’s how they win a lot of those long rallies.”
UAA had chances to take the fourth set as well but couldn’t string together a run of points to swing the balance.
Isabel Evans, Bella Burney and Bethany Tuchardt also each had nine kills for UAA.
West High grad Brooke Dexter from Anchorage was the Red Leafs’ top hitter with 18 kills, and Sherman added 16.
UAA will host Western Washington at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Alaska Airlines Center. That match includes a fundraiser for Let Every Woman Know Alaska and will feature a “Think Pink” theme.