ANCHORAGE – Alaska Anchorage outside hitter Leah Swiss posted a huge double-double with 22 kills and 19 digs, but it wasn’t quite enough Saturday as 11th-ranked Western Washington escaped the Alaska Airlines Center with a 25-22, 23-25, 25-21, 25-22 victory in Great Northwest Athletic Conference volleyball action.
The Seawolves (10-7, 5-3 GNAC) also got career-highs of 36 digs and nine assists from senior libero Keala Kaio-Perez as they fell in a battle between the last two NCAA Div. II West Region champions.
The Vikings (14-3, 7-1) were led by 15 kills, 20 digs and nine block assists from Joellee Buckner, plus 11 kills, 18 digs and four aces from Abby Phelps to improve to 4-0 all-time against the UAA at the Alaska Airlines Center and 20-2 overall on the Seawolves’ home court.
Both teams erased deficits to split the first two sets, with UAA knotting the match on a clutch kill by Swiss to eke out the second. The Seawolves almost rallied from huge holes of 12-3 and 19-8 in the third set, pulling within one point twice in the late-going. But the visitors used a kill from Arielle Turner (10 kills, 11 digs) to make it 23-21, and clinched the set two points later on a block by Buckner and Michaela Hall.
The fourth set featured a nearly identical ending. Joslyn Bopray and Phelps stuffed an attack by Chrisalyn Johnson (10 kills, 16 digs) to earn a 23-21 edge, before Buckner and Phelps converted consecutive feeds from setter Brette Boesel (39 assists) to end it.
UAA – the two-time defending GNAC champion and defending national runner-up – also got a big effort from freshman setter Casey Davenport, who delivered personal bests of 44 assists, six kills and 18 digs.
WWU – which won the West Region in 2015 on its way to the NCAA semifinals – eked out a .174 to .159 advantage in hitting percentage, but the Vikings truly took control of that match at the net, outblocking the Seawolves 21-7. Bopray led the defensive effort with 12 block assists.
The Seawolves hit the road for their next four matches, traveling to Oregon next week for contests against Concordia-Portland and Western Oregon. Both matches can be seen live online at gnac.tv or portal.stretchinternet.com/uaa.
NOTES: Swiss’s 22 kills tied Johnson (vs Cal State San Bernardino, Sept. 9) for the most by a Seawolf this year, while her 19 digs were a career high … with her second kill of the night, Swiss passed Carolyn DeKay (938 kills, 2001-02 & ’04) for No. 9 on UAA career list, now with 959 … Swiss served a team-high four aces as well Saturday, increasing her career total to 130 and passing Latika Chandler (1996-98 & ’00) for No. 3 on that program list … Swiss recorded her seventh double-double of the season and 28th of her career … Johnson earned her third double-double this year and 16th of her career … the Seawolves’ 109 digs were a season high and their most since posting 118 in last year’s 4-set win over the Vikings in the West Regional final … coming into Saturday’s match, WWU had suffered all three of its losses to teams with a current combined record of 43-1.