ANCHORAGE – Freshman Eve Stephens had 14 kills and senior Taylor Noga made a career-high 27 digs but the Alaska Anchorage volleyball team could not slow Western Washington’s middle-blocking combo of Kayleigh Harper and Michaela Hall on Thursday, falling 25-21, 23-25, 25-21, 25-19 to the 4th-ranked Vikings as the Alaska Airlines Center.
The Seawolves (16-5, 9-4 Great Northwest Athletic Conference) also got 12 kills from junior outside hitter Vanessa Boyer as they slipped into a tie for second place in the league standings with Central Washington.
Now with an 18-match winning streak, the Vikings used 16 kills on .395 hitting from Harper and 12 kills on .600 hitting from Hall to make the difference in the final two sets. Senior setter Brette Boesel dished 49 assists and libero Aubrey Stephens had 29 digs to help the visitors from Bellingham to their fifth straight win over UAA. WWU also improved to 5-0 all-time against UAA in regular-season matches at the Alaska Airlines Center.
“I was proud of our effort tonight, even though it didn’t result in the win we wanted,” said UAA head coach Chris Green. “We were able to force their pin hitters into a lot of errors, but we couldn’t control the middle of the net defensively, and that was the difference.”
Just as in last month’s 3-1 loss in Bellingham, the Seawolves tied the match with a gutty 2nd-set performance that featured four kills, four digs and three assists from Boyer. UAA led for much of the frame before falling behind 23-22. Freshman setter Ellen Floyd delivered one of her four kills for the equalizer, however, and Stephens and sophomore Vera Pluharova combined to block reigning GNAC Player of the Year Abby Phelps on the next point. Following a WWU timeout, the Seawolves earned the clincher on a long rally when Phelps hit it into the net.
Despite holding leads of 13-9 in the third set and 14-11 in the fourth, UAA could not complete the upset.
Phelps finished with 14 kills and 21 digs, and freshman right-side hitter Gabby Gunterman had 13 kills and four block assists for the Vikings, who now hold a four-match lead on UAA and Central Washington with just seven matches remaining in the regular season.
On a night when she was honored in a pre-match ceremony for achieving 1,000 career digs, Noga tallied career bests with six assists and her team season-high 27 digs. The former East Anchorage High School star now ranks 11th on UAA’s career digs list with 1,030, just two shy of former teammate Morgan Hooe (1,032 digs, 2013-16) for a spot in the top 10.
Senior outside hitter Chrisalyn Johnson had five kills for UAA and totaled 19 digs despite missing the majority of the second set with an injury.
The Seawolves return to the Alaska Airlines Center on Saturday at 7 p.m. to face Simon Fraser (10-9, 7-6). Call 907-786-1562 or visit GoSeawolves.com or AlaskaAirlinesCenter.com for tickets.