The University of Alaska Fairbanks faced off against the Great Northwest Athletic Conference’s defensive juggernaut, Concordia University, on Thursday, but the Nanooks’ back row stole the show on the Patty Center’s Alaska Airlines Court leading the team to a 25-20, 21-25, 25-19, 25-21 win.
“It was superb,” Nanooks head coach Brian Scott said about his team’s defensive effort at the postgame press conference.
“That team is one of the best defensive teams in the GNAC,” Scott said about the Cavaliers, who lead the conference with an 18.17 digs-per-set average this season. “For us to get 72 digs to their 58 digs, that’s pretty impressive. And then on top of that … we have 12 blocks.”
Three Nanooks recorded double-digit digs Thursday. Sophomore libero Makena Overbey made 18 followed by outside hitter Lahra Weber with 17 and setter Cate Whiting with 14. Tatum Upchurch and Mica Chen tallied nine and eight, respectively.
Senior middle blocker Kim Wong led the team with 3.5 block points, followed by junior middle blocker Emily Moorhead with three.
Alaska’s 72-dig performance was a season best of its four-set games this season. The 12 block points ranked fourth-best out of all games for the Nanook’s.
“I just do what I can for my teammates and I try to be my best for them,” Overbey said after her 4.5 dig-per-set performance, tied for the libero’s third best outing this season.
“You just have to trust your teammates to do what they’re supposed to do and then you can do your thing,” she said. Her 17 digs were a season-high for the junior.
Alaska recorded a game-high 21 digs in the first set, fending off the Cavaliers’ 50 total attacks and holding the team to a 0.160 hitting percentage. While the Nanooks made only 36 total attacks, their .306 hitting percentage and tight defense kept them ahead the whole set.
Concordia adjusted its offense for the second set and the Alaska defense struggled, recording only six digs. Overbey recorded none.
“(Nanook assistant coach Meagan Olsen) was like, ‘Hey Brian, I think we need to change our block where we are going to block line on the outside hitters and on the right side hitter we’re going to block their angle,’” Scott said, recalling the post second-set discussion.
The adjustment set the Cavalier’s attack to Overbey on the following sets. The sophomore made a game-best nine digs in set three and three in set four.
Outside hitter AveRee Reynolds led the team offensively with 16 kills and .326 hitting percentage. Weber also recorded 11 kills, good for her seventh double-double of the season.
The Nanooks, who are making their second round through the GNAC conference, lost to the Cavalier’s in five sets when they met previously in October in Oregon.
Scott said the Nanooks adjusted their scouting report for this matchup, but it was clear the Cavaliers had done the same.
“Last time our middles were kind of able to go off a little bit and tonight our middles had a tougher time. But fortunately our outsides performed well,” he said.
Alaska, 12-11 overall and 9-6 GNAC, is No. 5 in the conference standings.
The team hosts next hosts tenth place conference opponent Western Oregon at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Alaska Airlines Court. The Nanooks beat the Wolves in October on the road in four sets.
Contact News-Miner sports writer Laura Stickells at 459-7530. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMsports.