FAIRBANKS—The Alaska Nanooks volleyball team was scrappy and diligent Thursday night against Western Oregon University. Unfortunately, the hosts couldn’t get up for blocks as effectively as the Wolves did in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference game in the Patty Center.
Blocking was the only glaring difference — 15 total for Western Oregon compared to two for Alaska — in the four-set competition, won 20-25, 26-24, 29-27, 25-20 by the Wolves of Monmouth, Ore.
“They’ve got a big team and we’re not the biggest team out there, but we’re going to work with what we’ve got,” freshman outside hitter Sam Harthun said during the postgame media conference in the Nanook Lounge.
The Nanooks worked with hustle, as well as a game-best 44 assists from freshman setter Katlyn Mataya and Harthun’s team-high 18 kills and junior Keri Knight’s 13. Senior libero Allison Oddy generated a night-high 25 digs among Alaska’s 64, which were just one less than Western Oregon’s total.
“We played as hard as we possibly could; I was impressed and I was really proud,” Mataya said. “A loss is a loss, but we’re making huge strides. In the middle of the match, the coach (head coach Phil Shoemaker) said we’re not going to get bigger, so we’d better get better.”
It seemed that was possible for the Nanooks (1-8 GNAC, 3-13 overall) after their first-set victory.
There were 16 lead changes in the second set, which Western Oregon won with one of Samantha Ward’s game-high 20 kills. The Nanooks had knotted the score at 24 with a kill from Harthun before the Wolves snapped the tie on a passing miscue by Alaska.
The third set featured 20 lead changes and Alaska made it 27-27 with another Harthun kill. Western Oregon regained the lead because of another Nanooks passing misfortune and won the set with an ace from Ward, a senior outside hitter.
“Those two games could have swung either way. We could have beat them in three or we could have beat them in four,” Mataya said. “They absolutely got lucky.”
Western Oregon (6-3, 13-5) helped itself by adjusting to the Nanooks, particularly their defense.
“We just had to serve really tough,” said Ward, who had two of Western Oregon’s six aces. “Hopefully, they couldn’t set their middle and they have get a higher ball to the outside, and those are easier to dig.”
Harthun contributed 14 digs for the Nanooks and senior outside hitter Reilly Stevens provided 13.
Knight also had two of Alaska’s seven aces, and freshman middle blocker Megan Morrison chipped in eight kills.
Four Wolves had double-digit digs — Megan Triggs with 22, Danielle Reese with 12, and Ward and Hannah Deede with 10 apiece.
Reese, a senior outside hitter, also had 17 kills and junior middle blocker Krissi Kemper made nine, while sophomore setter LesLyne Satele distributed 26 assists for the Wolves, who swept the Nanooks in three sets Sept. 22 in Monmouth.
The Nanooks are tied for ninth with Simon Fraser heading into Saturday’s noon contest in the Patty Center against eighth-place Saint Martin’s (2-7, 4-10). The Saints, of Lacey, Wash., lost Thursday in four sets (23-25, 25-13, 25-18, 25-15) at third-place Alaska Anchorage.
Western Oregon visits UAA Saturday, and the Seawolves (8-2, 13-5) come to the Patty Center at 7 p.m. Oct. 27.
Contact staff writer Danny Martin at 459-7586.