ANCHORAGE – Another big double-double from junior outside hitter Leah Swiss was not enough to save the Alaska Anchorage volleyball team from the upset bug on ‘senior night’ Thursday as visiting Montana State Billings earned a 21-25, 25-21, 25-23, 25-23 victory in the regular-season finale at the Alaska Airlines Center.
Swiss had 21 kills on .385 hitting and 16 digs for the Seawolves (19-10, 14-6 Great Northwest Athletic Conference), who entered the match with a No. 7 ranking in the NCAA Div. II West Region and a likely chance to clinch a playoff berth with a victory.
Meanwhile, the Yellowjackets (9-20, 5-14) used 15 kills and 14 assists from outside hitter Maddi Vigil and 27 digs from libero Izela Alvarez to snap a 15-match losing skid against UAA, earning their first series win since 2009.
After splitting the first two sets, the final two frames would come down to the wire, with the visitors prevailing each time.
After a kill from Swiss brought UAA within 24-23 in the third, MSUB would clinch it on a Seawolf attack error. The fourth set saw UAA erase deficits of 12-6, 13-9 and 19-17, and middle blocker Tara Melton blasted one of her nine kills to give UAA a 23-22 edge. But the Yellowjackets rallied for the next three tallies, getting consecutive kills from Hali Ehresmann, followed by a kill from Vigil on match point.
MSUB won thanks to a virtuoso defensive performance, outdigging the Seawolves 86-78, including 20 from defensive specialist Mina Duong.
Sophomore middle blocker Vanessa Hayes notched double figures for the fourth time this year with 10 kills on match-best .409 hitting, plus five total blocks (two solo) and a career-high-tying six digs. Freshman setter Casey Davenport had 42 assists and tied her high for the fourth time with six kills, while senior libero Keala Kaio-Perez notched 19 digs and seven assists.
With their regular season complete, the Seawolves must wait until Monday’s 3:30 p.m. AST NCAA Div. II Volleyball Championships Selection Show to learn their postseason fate. GNAC regular-season champion Western Washington, Pacific West Conference champion Cal Baptist and the to-be-determined California Collegiate Athletic Association Tournament champion will join the top five at-large qualifiers at the NCAA West Region Championships, Nov. 30-Dec. 2. The Seawolves – the defending national runners-up – are hoping to earn their program-record fifth consecutive postseason berth.