First and foremost, it can’t be overlooked that for the first time in two years, fans convened at the Patty Center for a UAF sporting event.
Nearly 300 people filled the stands to watch as the University of Alaska Fairbanks challenged the Cal State, LA Golden Eagles in the opening game of the Nanook Volleyball Classic Thursday night. After UAF played only ten volleyball games last season with no fans in attendance, it was a welcome sight to behold.
“It’s so nice to have everybody back,” said starter Avree Reynolds. “Even though it’s still socially distanced and we can’t see everybody’s faces just hearing their voices and their cheers for us is awesome.”
Unfortunately, while the ‘Nooks were able to treat the fans to a game, they weren’t able to treat them to a win. The Nanooks fell in four sets to the Golden Eagles 23-25, 21-25, 25-23, 23-25. The loss drops UAF to 4-5 on the season.
“(The Golden Eagles are) a talented team,” said head coach Brian Scott. “They’ll be one of the best in the region and for sure the best in their conference. They have some hitters that can do lots of different things.”
It’s worth noting that every set was close. The Nanooks pushed Cal State in each set, committed only one error in set one, and actually led for a good portion of the final set before LA came back to win.
There were also some very strong individual performances. Reynolds led the way with 13 kills and a .281 hit percentage while adding five blocks and two digs. Lahra Weber was the only other ‘Nook in double-digits for kills as she added 11 to her season totals. Cate Whiting had yet another double-double with 34 assists and 12 digs.
It was only the first game of the tournament. The Nanooks played another game Friday night that ended after press time and will play two games Saturday against Ursuline at noon and CSU-Pueblo at 7:30 p.m. It’s still early in the season and there’s a lot to be encouraged about from UAF so far.
“There’s been some super tough teams that we played and each team had a different look,” said Whiting. “Something that we’re working on is staying disciplined on our own defensive systems and our offensive systems. I think playing (the teams we have so far) and the rest of the teams this weekend is really just going to prepare us for the conference.”
Contact sports editor Hart Pisani at firstname.lastname@example.org or 459-7530.