ANCHORAGE – Freshman Eve Stephens slammed 21 kills on flawless hitting Tuesday to help the Alaska Anchorage volleyball team repel an Alaska Fairbanks upset bid with a 25-17, 25-16, 18-25, 25-19 victory at the Alaska Airlines Center.
The Nanooks (2-8, 0-3) were led by 15 kills and 13 digs from outside hitter Tatum Upchurch , but the visitors were outhit .260 to .188 and suffered their seventh straight loss.
“That took a quality effort against a much-improved Fairbanks team,” said UAA head coach Chris Green. “Except for that third set, I thought we played our kind of volleyball and took the action to them. Eve was obviously very impressive, but it was our back-row defense and our passing that set her up for that amount of success.”
Stephens, a 6-1 middle blocker, finished with a .656 attack percentage, going without an attack error on 32 attempts. The Palmer native and former Colony High School star’s attack percentage was the best for a Seawolf and the sixth-best figure for any GNAC player – with minimum 18 kills – since the league was founded in 2001.
After UAA controlled the first two sets handily, UAF responded by leading start to finish in the third.
The Nanooks led early in the fourth, too, and held a 16-14 edge when Makena Overbey served an ace. UAF’s momentum would stop there, however, as the Seawolves tied it on back-to-back kills from Johnson and Tara Melton, then took the lead on a spike from Stephens. Two aces by fellow rookie Ellen Floyd and two more kills from Stephens would highlight the rest of an 8-0 UAA surge, and Stephens capped her night with three straight kills, including match point.
Johnson finished with 12 kills and 14 digs for her 30th career double-double, while Noga had her second double-double this year with 10 kills and 18 digs. The duo also combined for five of UAA’s 10 aces.
Sophomore libero Anjoilyn Vreeland had 26 digs, four assists and two aces, and Floyd dished 30 assists and made eight digs for the hosts.
Melton added four kills and posted a match-best four block assists.
The Seawolves hit the road for their next four matches, starting with Thursday’s non-conference contest at NAIA foe Rocky Mountain College in Billings, Mont. First serve is 5 p.m. ADT, with video available at youtube.com/battlinbears.