ANCHORAGE – The defending national runner-up Alaska Anchorage volleyball team unveiled its 2017 schedule on Wednesday, while welcoming the Hilton Garden Inn as the new sponsor for its annual preseason tournament.

From Sept. 7-9, the Hilton Garden Inn will join the Seawolves in hosting the best NCAA Div. II teams in the GNAC, CCAA and Pac West conferences for the top ‘pod’ of the West Region Volleyball Showcase, to kick off the home season at the Alaska Airlines Center.

Along with host UAA, the six-team, 12-match event features four other 2016 playoff teams – Chico State, Cal Baptist, Cal State San Bernardino and Western Washington – plus defending Pac West regular-season champion Concordia-Irvine, which is entering its first year of playoff eligibility. All six participants finished either first or second in their respective leagues last year. (2017 Showcase participant quick facts)

“We are excited to welcome the Hilton Garden Inn and Interstate Hotels as the primary sponsor for our annual early season volleyball tournament,” said UAA Athletic Director Keith Hackett. “Jennifer Downs and Sarah Nelson have been terrific to work with on this new partnership. I think it will be a ‘win-win’ for them and the high-caliber teams playing in our event.”

“We are always looking at ways to support our community and partner with the university, and jumped at the opportunity to be a part of an exciting event,” said Downs, the Hilton Garden Inn/Hampton Inn Anchorage Area Sales Manager.

Following this year’s special Showcase format, the event will revert to its traditional invitational format in future seasons, with Hilton Garden Inn continuing as the title sponsor.

Prior to hosting the Showcase, UAA will begin the season with challenging matches at the Point Loma Invitational in San Diego, Sept. 1-2, where they will face Cal State LA, host Point Loma, UC San Diego and Azusa Pacific.

The Seawolves begin defense of their two straight Great Northwest Athletic Conference titles when they travel to Alaska Fairbanks on Sept. 12, while the GNAC home season starts Sept. 21 against Saint Martin’s at the Alaska Airlines Center.

The month of October features home matches against fellow league contenders Simon Fraser (Oct. 5), Western Washington (Oct. 7), Central Washington (Oct. 26) and Northwest Nazarene (Oct. 28), while other big home dates include Nov. 14 against Alaska Fairbanks and ‘senior night’ on Nov. 16 against Montana State Billings.

“With 11 matches against NCAA Tournament teams from last season, I think this schedule will be a great challenge and hopefully have us well prepared when playoff time rolls around,” said UAA head coach Chris Green, whose team went 34-3 and won its first West Region title in 2016.

The NCAA Div. II West Regional Championships will be held Nov. 30-Dec.2 at a to-be-determined location, and the NCAA Elite Eight national championships are set for Dec. 7-9 in Pensacola, Florida.

The Seawolves – who have led NCAA Div. II in attendance for the last two seasons – return four starters from last year’s GNAC and West Region title squad, including All-America outside hitter Leah Swiss and West Region Freshman-of-the-Year Diana Fa’amausili.