With an accomplished core of returning starters, Alaska Anchorage head coach Chris Green hopes to have the 2013 Seawolf volleyball team back in the hunt for a Great Northwest Athletic Conference title and an NCAA playoff berth.

Last year’s Seawolves finished 16-10 for the program’s fifth straight winning campaign, although they fell just short of a fourth consecutive NCAA berth.

Led by steady seniors Siobhan Johansen and Jodi Huddleston, plus a talented group of returning sophomores, this year’s squad is now anxious to write its own chapter in UAA’s recent run of success.

“Some of our best players last year were either freshmen or transfers,” said Green, whose Seawolves have also posted top-4 GNAC finishes for the last four years. “They experienced some successes, but also learned from the tough times, and the maturity they gained was very valuable.”

This year’s lone 4th-year senior is Johansen, who has played in virtually every set of her career, whether at setter, libero or defensive specialist. A key part of UAA’s 2010 and 2011 NCAA Tournament teams, the Palmer (Colony HS) product gives Green a veteran presence in any position. Already among the program’s all-time leaders in assists (959) and digs (743), Johansen is on the verge of becoming the fifth Seawolf to top the 1,000 plateau in both categories.

Huddleston returns after capturing the GNAC’s Newcomer of the Year award and honorable mention All-GNAC honors in 2012. The 6-1 middle blocker ranked seventh in the league with a .284 attack percentage and posted 0.69 blocks per set. The former Western Nebraska CC transfer hit .300 or better on 11 occasions in her Seawolf debut season, seeing action in every set.

Up front, Huddleston is flanked by an impressive array of sophomore hitters, including reigning GNAC Freshman of the Year and All-GNAC pick Julia Mackey, and fellow former Alaska prep stars Katelynn Zanders and Sarah Johnson.

A 5-11 right-side hitter, Mackey posted GNAC top-10 ranks in kills per set (3.13) and points per set (3.48) as a rookie, while hitting a solid .251. The Fairbanks (West Valley HS) product tallied double-digit kills in 19 of 26 matches, including a season-best 18 against MSU Billings.

Meanwhile, former South Anchorage teammates Zanders and Johnson emerged as dangerous weapons at the outside hitter position last season. Zanders, 5-9, led the team and ranked seventh in the GNAC with 3.18 kills per set, smashing a Seawolf season-high 25 against Cal State Monterey Bay. Johnson, 6-1, was one of the top all-around rookies in the league, averaging 2.98 digs and 2.41 kills per set, along with a team-high nine double-doubles.

Also returning up front for their second seasons are junior Maureen Sabado and sophomore Breanne Sytnyk. Following a redshirt season in 2011, Sabado played in 13 matches last year, leading the team with 1.05 blocks per set. At 5-9, Kodiak native can play either middle or right-side, adding versatility to Green’s lineup. Sytnyk, a 6-footer from Shoal Lake, Manitoba, emerged as a true freshman to play in 23 matches last season, contributing 0.84 blocks and a .233 attack percentage.

The team’s seven newcomers are comprised of three junior-college transfers and four true freshmen, including another pair of former Alaska prep stars.

Juniors Brooke Pottle, a 5-8 outside hitter/defensive specialist, and Quinn Barker, a 5-4 libero, bring the most experience after standout careers in the Arizona Community Colleges Athletic Conference. Pottle, who played her freshman season at Div. I Air Force, was a Second Team All-ACCAC performer at Glendale CC in 2012 after averaging 2.33 kills and 3.91 digs per set. Barker, originally from Southern California, looks to take over as the Seawolves’ full-time libero after averaging 4.04 digs at Central Arizona CC last season.

Sophomore Caitlin McInerney also brings a year of JC experience, having averaged 1.02 blocks per set at Western Wyoming CC last season. The 5-11 middle blocker was the Wyoming Gatorade Player of the Year as a senior at Laramie High School in 2011.

Meanwhile, another former South Anchorage standout, Morgan Hooe, spearheads the strong freshman class. A 5-7 setter, Hooe was the 2011 Alaska Gatorade Player of the Year and a 4-year starter for the Wolverines’ powerhouse squads.

Up front, 6-foot middle blockers Erin Braun (San Bernardino, Calif.) and Sydney Blankinship (Portland, Ore.) will push the veterans, while Juneau product Chelsea Peterson, a 5-8 outside hitter/defensive specialist, adds another versatile presence for the Seawolves.