PORTLAND, Ore. – After earning its second straight league title in 2016, Alaska Anchorage has been dubbed a narrow favorite to repeat in the 2017 Great Northwest Athletic Conference Volleyball Preseason Coaches’ Poll, released by the league office Tuesday.

The Seawolves – the defending NCAA Div. II national runners-up – received 110 points and five first-place votes in balloting by the conference’s 11 head coaches. Western Washington, which finished runner-up to UAA in the league and the NCAA West Regional Championships last year, got 109 points and three first-place votes. Northwest Nazarene is picked third with 106 points and three first-place votes, followed by fellow 2016 NCAA qualifiers Central Washington (89) and Simon Fraser (77).

UAA went on an impressive run last year, setting GNAC records with 34 overall wins and 19 conference victories en route to a meeting in the national championship match against Concordia-St. Paul. The Seawolves won with defense, leading the GNAC in opponent hitting percentage (.127) and ranking second in blocks (2.39 per set). UAA’s offense wasn’t bad either as it finished second in the GNAC in hitting percentage (.225) and kills (13.94 per set).

With the loss of two key pieces – All-America setter Morgan Hooe and All-GNAC middle blocker Erin Braun – the leadership of the team will fall to junior outside hitters Leah Swiss and Chrisalyn Johnson. Swiss earned All-America and First Team All-GNAC honors after finishing second in the GNAC with 3.56 kills per set, to go along with a .242 hitting percentage, 2.77 digs per set and 58 blocks. Meanwhile, Johnson stepped up in her sophomore campaign to post 3.09 kills per set and earn All-NCAA Tournament honors at the Elite Eight.

The Seawolves also return sophomore Diana Fa’amausili, who was named GNAC and AVCA West Region Freshman of the Year. She finished with 2.75 kills per set and ranked among the conference leaders with 1.05 blocks per set.

Ranked No. 4 in the AVCA NCAA Div. II Preseason Top 25 poll, UAA opens with a free exhibition match against the Seawolf Alumni on Friday at 7 p.m. at the Alaska Airlines Center.

After starting the regular season with four matches in San Diego, Sept. 1-2, the Seawolves will host the premier non-conference tournament in the region – the D2 West Region Volleyball Showcase – Sept. 7-9 at the Alaska Airlines Center.

For ticket information, visit GoSeawolves.com or call 907-786-1562.

2017 Great Northwest Athletic Conference
Preseason Volleyball Coaches’ Poll
Rk Team (1st-place votes)  2016 Records      Pts
1. Alaska Anchorage (5)    34-3, 19-1 (1st)  110
2. Western Washington (3)  23-8, 17-3 (2nd)  109
3. Northwest Nazarene (3)  22-7, 13-7 (t4th) 106
4. Central Washington      17-12, 13-7 (t4th) 89
5. Simon Fraser            21-8, 14-6 (3rd)   77
6. Concordia-Portland      15-13, 11-9 (6th)  67
7. Western Oregon          10-17, 7-13 (t7th) 50
8. Seattle Pacific         11-17, 7-13 (t7th) 46
9. Saint Martin's          6-18, 2-18 (t10th) 26
10. Alaska                 3-24, 2-18 (t10th) 25
11. Montana State Billings 7-23, 5-15 (9th)   21
Points awarded on 11-10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 basis