ANCHORAGE – Chrisalyn Johnson ripped a career-high 24 kills, including the final two points of the match, as the Alaska Anchorage volleyball team earned a critical Great Northwest Athletic Conference victory, knocking off No. 25 Central Washington 21-25, 25-17, 28-26, 19-25, 15-11 at the Alaska Airlines Center.
Johnson added 15 digs and the Seawolves (15-7, 10-3 GNAC) also got 12 kills and 17 digs from fellow junior outside hitter Leah Swiss to earn their fifth straight victory and avenge last month’s 3-0 loss in Ellensburg.
The Wildcats (15-6, 10-3) were led by 17 kills and 22 digs from outside hitter Shelby Mauritson, while middle blocker Sabrina Wheelhouse had 13 kills and three blocks.
“We’d played them once and we knew we were going to have to do something different if we wanted to be successful this time,” said UAA head coach Chris Green. “I think our hitters did a better job of finding seams and mixing it up – mixing in the tip and mixing in roll shots. We outblocked them 13-8, so that was a huge accomplishment for us against a team that came into the match No. 1 in the nation in that category.”
After splitting the first two sets, UAA erased deficits of 18-13 and 22-18 to send the third into extra rallies. Johnson saved the set with a kill that made it 24-24, and Taylor Noga served one of her two aces to stake the Seawolves to the lead. Tied 26-26 after a Wheelhouse kill, Seawolf setter Casey Davenport dropped a successful sneak attack into the middle of the Wildcat defense, and Wildcat setter Gabrielle Aihara was called for a lift to clinch the set for UAA.
Central won the fourth and earned a 7-6 edge in the fifth set on a kill by Sara Joffs, but that would be the final lead of the night for the visitors, who lost for the fourth straight time in Anchorage. With the Seawolves leading 9-8, Swiss blasted a kill and an ace on consecutive points, and a Johnson kill made it 12-8. The Wildcats rallied within 13-11 before Johnson came through with nearly identical kills, caroming the ball of the Central block on the left side.
Johnson’s 24 kills were two more than her previous career best and one more than UAA’s previous best this season (23 by Swiss in last week’s 5-set win at Seattle Pacific). The former Dimond High star recorded her sixth double-double in the last seven matches and added four clutch block assists.
Meanwhile, Davenport had her second-most assists as a Seawolf with 50, and crushed her previous career high of 21 digs, making 29 in Thursday’s victory. The freshman from Auburn, Wash., also notched five kills and no attack errors on 11 attempts for a match-best .455 attack percentage.
Junior middle blocker Tara Melton was huge as well, earning a career high in kills for the second straight match with 11, along with six block assists. Sophomore middle blocker Vanessa Hayes had seven block assists to lead the match and equal her career high, while senior libero Keala Kaio-Perez paced the back-row defense with 31 digs and added six assists.
Now tied for third place in the standings with Central, UAA will get a chance to make up ground in the hunt for the league title when it hosts GNAC co-leader and nationally 10th-ranked Northwest Nazarene (20-1, 12-1) on Saturday at 7 p.m. at the Alaska Airlines Center.
Call 907-786-1562 to order tickets or visit GoSeawolves.com for more information.
NOTES: The Seawolves extended a program record by clinching their 10th consecutive winning season with Thursday’s win – all since the arrival of head coach Chris Green in 2008 … Swiss recorded her 11th double-double of the season and 32nd of her career … Johnson moved up two spots to 18th place on the UAA career kills list, now with 687 … Hayes moved up two spots to 13th place on UAA’s career block assists list, now with 185.