Last Saturday the UAF Nanook volleyball team had probably its most satisfying match of the season, upsetting the rival UAA Seawolves three sets to one. Despite a sprinkling of green in the stands, the fans in blue made themselves heard all afternoon, led by a special cheerleading effort handing out dozens of free goodies.
The Nanooks came out a bit flat in the opener, or maybe a bit nervous, letting UAA open up a lead in the first set, but steadily coming back to win a close one. Middle hitters Sophie Schilling and Emily Moorhead rattled the floor on several especially strong spikes.
In the second set it was UAF’s turn to start out hot, and thanks mainly to strong blocking, they maintained their lead all the way to an efficient 25-17 win. Senior back side hitter AveRee Reynolds was deadly, hitting over, around, and through the tall UAA block. The Nanooks as a team served very strongly, keeping UAA on their heels for the entire set.
In set three the Seawolves shifted strategy and began dumping the ball over the Nanook block. It’s usually a moral victory when your opponents are so tired of being blocked that they decide to start dinking, but if the dinks are effective, that moral victory isn’t exactly satisfying. UAA back side hitter Eve Stephens was also particularly strong hitting over the top of the UAF block, and UAA did a good job of exploiting those rotations when UAF setter Cate Whiting was in the front row and had only two hitting options. Every time UAF made a run to tie the game, UAA countered with another run to go up by three or four again, and the Seawolves won going away.
Set four began the same way set three ended, with UAA dinking and blocking efficiently, and getting out to a lead. However, the Nanooks countered with some effective dinking of their own, with setter Whiting putting down a couple of lethal left-handed power dumps. Libero Dani Dodge played spectacular defense all match, but particularly in the fourth set, when the Nanooks won some key long rallies. Down 20-23, it looked like the Nanooks were going to a fifth game. However, thanks to good blocking and a couple of clever attacks by strong side hitter Lahra Weber, the Nanooks made a final push to tie the game at 24, and won 26-24. For the match their offense hit at a whopping .305 clip, their second best percentage of the season, against a very strong UAA block.
The Nanooks finish their season at home this week with matches against St. Martin’s on Thursday night and the Senior Night match against Western Oregon on Saturday afternoon.