ANCHORAGE – Senior Taylor Noga tallied career-highs of 13 kills and 21 digs to help the Alaska Anchorage volleyball team dodge a Michigan Tech comeback and remain unbeaten with a 28-26, 25-22, 20-25, 24-26, 15-11 victory in the finale of the UAA Invitational at the Alaska Airlines Center on Saturday night.
The Seawolves (3-0) also got 11 kills, 14 digs and three aces from senior outside hitter Chrisalyn Johnson, who delivered her second straight double-double and was named the event’s Most Outstanding Player.
The Huskies (3-1) were led by 30 kills from outside hitter Olivia Ghormley and 32 digs from fellow all-tournament selection Megan Utlak, but the visitors from the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference lost despite advantages of .169 to .144 in attack percentage, 111-91 in digs and 73-49 in assists.
“We made some adjustments to our lineup in the fifth set, and that made a world of difference,” said UAA head coach Chris Green. “Our servers did a great job of making that first pass very difficult for their back row, and our block played a big role in that last set like it did all night.”
The Seawolves earned the victory by outblocking the Huskies 17-4 and recording an equally lopsided edge in the serving game, tallying seven aces and two service errors to Michigan Tech’s five aces and 12 service errors.
UAA took four set points to pull out the first frame, finally ending it on a dump kill by sophomore setter Casey Davenport, followed by an ace from freshman setter Ellen Floyd. Michigan Tech nearly erased a 21-14 deficit in the second, pulling within a point three times before the Seawolves clinched it on consecutive kills from Noga and Johnson.
The Seawolves never led in the third set, trailing 14-9 before pulling as close as 20-19 in the late stages. Michigan Tech also controlled most of set four as well, fending off a late UAA comeback and sending it the distance on a kill by Anna Jonyas on set point.
UAA trailed 1-0 in the fifth before getting consecutive kills from four different players, and Noga made it 8-2 with a crowd-pleasing solo block on Jonyas. The Huskies rallied for four straight points after middle blockers Vera Pluharova and Tara Melton stuffed Ghormley at the net for a 14-7 lead, but Davenport fed Johnson for a kill that found the middle of the court to end it.
“C.J. was terrific for us all weekend, especially when we needed big kills to stop our opponent’s momentum,” Green added of his outside hitter, who was named to the Preseason All-Great Northwest Athletic Conference Team last week. “I’m also impressed with the all-around game that Taylor is finally getting a chance to show off this year. The middle of the match was rough for her, but she showed a lot of poise and played her best in the fifth set.”
Noga, who primarily played defensive specialist her first three seasons, had two kills on three attacks in the final frame, along with four digs, an assist, a solo block, and no errors of any kind. The former East Anchorage High School star finished with double-digit kills for the first time in her career and topped her previous best of 19 digs, set in a 4-set victory over Palm Beach Atlantic in the 2016 NCAA Semifinals.
Pluharova matched her career highs with eight total blocks and seven kills, while Melton slammed nine kills on match-best .421 hitting (9-1-19), along with seven block assists. Freshman middle blocker Eve Stephens added six kills and seven total blocks, including a pair of solos.
Sophomore libero Anjoilyn Vreeland had 21 digs, and the setting combo of Floyd and Davenport accounted for 41 assists and 25 digs.
The Seawolves travel to Irvine, Calif., next week for four matches in two days at the ‘B pod’ of the D2 West Region Volleyball Showcase, Aug. 31 and Sept. 1. UAA opens against Cal State San Marcos on Friday at noon ADT. Check the volleyball schedule page at GoSeawolves.com for links to live video and stats.