Race Winners, Saint Spikers Highlight Players Of The Week
SMU freshman Sirena Peredo earned her first-career GNAC Player of the Week award.
SMU freshman Sirena Peredo earned her first-career GNAC Player of the Week award.

Monday, October 9, 2023
by Evan O'Kelly

PORTLAND, Ore. – A pair of cross country race winners and two Saint Martin’s volleyball standouts headlined the Great Northwest Athletic Conference Player of the Week awards announced by the conference office on Monday.

Central Washington standout Johan Correa made it three wins in three races this fall, topping the field at the Emerald City Open to earn his third runner of the week award of 2023. “Johan is special,” said first-year CWU head coach Jonathan Hill. “What I’m most pleased with is how composed he is racing. To go 3-for-3 isn’t just a testament to his fitness and work, but also that he is racing at a really high level. We are excited to get into bigger and bigger meets, and he is ready for it. We know that the GNAC meet is going to be the biggest challenge we have faced this year. We love to compete and he loves to race, so we are both excited for the challenge.”

It was a familiar face that claimed the women’s runner of the week honor, as Alaska’s Rosie Fordham picked up her second victory of the season at the San Francisco State Invitational. The Nanooks’ trifecta of Fordham, Naomi Bailey and Kendall Kramer make their team a formidable competitor for a title at the upcoming GNAC Cross Country Championships. “It’s a lot of fun to work with athletes like that,” Alaska assistant coach Conrad Haber said. “On race day it’s a source of confidence and strength for them. If one of them is not having their best day, they continue to rely on and push one another. It makes it good from a team perspective. On any given day any of them could come out on top. It’s a lot of fun to watch, and they are three special athletes.”

On the hardwood, big performances by SMU’s senior setter Karla Soto and freshman defensive specialist/outside hitter Sirena Peredo led the Saints to a pair of victories. Soto maintained her status as the GNAC leader in assists per set (10.29) while Peredo had season highs both offensively and defensively last week. “She has jumped in and is not afraid of the moment,” SMU head coach Dan Behnke said on the true freshman Peredo. “She trusts the people around her and our system, and she’s just going for it. It’s what you want out of a freshman.”


Offensive Player of the Week: Erika Wilson, Montana State Billings

First-career player of the week award.

Playing a crucial role in helping the Yellowjackets secure four points last week, Wilson contributed in both of her team’s home matches. With the score tied at 1-1 in the 66th minute on Thursday, Wilson converted a penalty kick that proved to be the game-winning goal in MSUB’s 2-1 upset win over No. 24 Western Oregon. The Sam Houston State transfer then helped the Yellowjackets salvage a point on Saturday, finding the foot of Ave Roberts for a game-tying goal in the 75th minute of a 1-1 draw.

“Erika has been a steady performer for the team this season,” said MSUB head coach Abiye Jack. “She put in two 90-minute performances, and showed she is reliable throughout the entire match. She brought a lot to our team last week not only defensively but offensively. It was impressive to see how much energy she puts into her game, and she is a very competitive player.”

Also Nominated: Alia Khoyi, SMU; Jacqueline Blakeley, SPU; Mikayla Tupper, SFU; Gabby Warta, WOU; Sophie Bearden Croft, WWU.

Defensive Player of the Week: Sarah Loewen, Simon Fraser

Second-career player of the week award. Second award of the season.

Securing her GNAC-leading fourth and fifth shutouts of the 2023 season, Loewen totaled nine saves to help Simon Fraser claim a pair of victories last week. Loewen had five stops – her second-highest total of the year – in the Red Leafs’ 1-0 triumph over Northwest Nazarene on Thursday while facing 13 shots. The sophomore from Burnaby, B.C., followed with four denials in a runaway 4-0 win over Central Washington on Saturday. Loewen leads the GNAC with 32 saves, a goals-against average of 0.50, and a save percentage of .889 this fall.

Also Nominated: Tuva Sallvin, MSUB; Ali Campigotto, SMU; Mercedes Cullen, SPU; Claire Henninger, WWU


Offensive Player of the Week: Jim Wagenaar, Northwest Nazarene

First-career player of the week award.

The conference’s first hat trick of the season belonged to Wagenaar, who continued his stellar debut collegiate campaign with three goals in the Nighthawks’ wild 4-3 defeat against Western Oregon. With his team trailing 2-0 early, Wagenaar pulled the Nighthawks level at 2-2 with goals in the 49th and 61st minutes. When the Wolves scored in the 69th minute, Wagenaar found yet another equalizer 10 minutes later to complete the hat trick. The big performance lifted him to the top of the GNAC leaderboard with seven goals scored this season.

“It’s tough for a freshman to come in and do well right away, but he has come in and has really worked at assimilating to the culture we have,” NNU head coach James Williamson said. “He has started to thrive in the last few weeks. He has been a really good team first guy, he is consistently putting in quality reps in front of goal, and he helps us get better every day. The biggest thing that stands out is his unwavering confidence in himself, which is vital for a striker. He has been wonderful to have and is a great piece to the team culture.”

Also Nominated: Callum Bryan, MSUB; Diego Andrade, SMU; Orlando Erazo, SPU; Michael Hennessy, SFU; Gabriel Silva, WOU; Ryan Rotter, WWU.

Defensive Player of the Week: Cam Welty, Seattle Pacific

First-career player of the week award.

Seattle Pacific’s first shutout of the 2023 campaign came with Welty in net, as the graduate student from Issaquah piloted his team to a 3-0 result over Montana State Billings. While just two saves were required of the fifth-year program veteran, one of them came in a breakaway one-on-one situation that prevented the Yellowjackets from taking an early lead. Welty’s first-career shutout helped the Falcons grab three points to move into a tie for third in the conference standings.

“I’m excited for him,” said SPU head coach Kevin Sakuda. “He was great off his line, managed his box well and came up with a couple big saves when we needed them. We ask a lot from our goalkeepers as far as building out of the back and initiating our attack, and he was very solid with that. It was a really good team performance Saturday and he was a big reason why. It’s great to get shutouts and we know if we are going to be successful moving forward that we have to keep the ball out of the net.”

Also Nominated: Kolja Thomas, MSUB; Brian Licona, SMU; Justyn Sandhu, SFU


Offensive Player of the Week: Karla Soto, Saint Martin’s

First-career player of the week award.

Soto’s stat line stood out last week, as she ranked second among GNAC players with 11.14 assists per set while dialing up five service aces and averaging 3.29 digs per set on the defensive side of the ball. Soto facilitated the Saint offense with 46 assists – three off her season high – in the team’s 3-1 win over Alaska Anchorage on Thursday, while completing her fifth double-double of the year with a dozen digs. Soto followed up with a 32-assist, 11-dig performance in Saturday’s 3-0 sweep of Alaska.

“She’s exactly what you would want in a senior captain,” said Behnke. “She is a floor leader, is vocal and there is not a day when she is not smiling. She made some adjustments in the matches last week and was really good on the decision making side. In the postgame talk I said that she is resilient, and that is what we are seeing from our group right now.”

Also Nominated: Nicole Blue, UAA; Ainsley Smith, UAF; Ashley Kaufman, CWU; Emma Fa’alogo, MSUB; Brooke Dexter, SFU; Emily Vossenkuhl, WWU.

Defensive Player of the Week: Sirena Peredo, Saint Martin’s

First-career player of the week award.

Peredo continued her standout freshman campaign with an average of 4.86 digs per set to go along with 3.43 kills per set to help her team to a pair of victories. Peredo started her week with a season-high 17 kills and completed her fifth double-double of the season adding a season-high 18 digs in SMU’s 3-1 win over UAA. Peredo followed with 16 digs and seven kills in the sweep of the Nanooks, and contributed three total blocks on the weekend.

“She has a balanced game,” said Behnke. “She’s on the shorter side, so she has to be really creative offensively. She stays aggressive but knows when to throw in some off-speed shots. Making adjustments is something she is doing a really good job of right now.”

Also Nominated: Reilly Plumhoff, UAA; Grace Steurer, UAF; Emma Daoud-Hebert, CWU; Christine Funk, MSUB; Kalyn Hartmann, SFU; Devyn Oestreich, WWU.


Women’s Runner of the Week: Rosie Fordham, Alaska

Second-career runner of the week award. Second award this season.

Taking home the title at the San Francisco State Invitational, Fordham clocked a time of 21:25.9 on the 6k course to top a field of 142 competitors. The junior from Sydney, Australia held a nearly eight-second advantage over the runner up, picking up her second win and runner of the week nod this season. “We had been talking about being patient in races and striking at the appropriate time,” said Haber. “At this particular race she was towards the front for most of it. Instead of making a move early, she waited until the right time to make a move. That’s how she separated herself from the field.”

Also Nominated: Morgan Erler, NNU; Cassidy Walchak-Sloan, SMU; Annika Esvelt, SPU; Grace Chalk, SFU; Ashley Reeck, WWU.

Men’s Runner of the Week: Johan Correa, Central Washington

Third-career runner of the week award. Third award this season.

Winning his third race of his debut cross country season, Correa topped a field of 101 runners at the Emerald City Open on Saturday, with an 8k time of 25:07.5. That gave the cross country newcomer a 23-second victory over the runner-up, as he completed his final tune-up prior to the GNAC Championships in stellar fashion. “The course was four 2,000 meter loops, so we saw him four times,” said Hill. “He didn’t create any separation or gap until the second half of the race. It was a hilly course which we thought would prepare us well for (the GNAC meet in) Anchorage, and he went out and steadily put pressure on the field before he broke it open in the second half.”

Also Nominated: Coleman Nash, UAA; Andrew Rush, MSUB; Isaac Cortes, SMU; Sebastian Brinkman, SFU; Kevin McDermott, WWU.


Men’s Player of the Week: Denby Carswell, Simon Fraser            

First-career player of the week award.

Carding the top three-round score among GNAC golfers last week, Carswell tied for 12th at the Chico State Invitational with a 2-under-par 214 (69-74-71). Carswell’s first-round 3-under-par 69 was his best single-round score of the season, and it propelled his scoring average to 72.0 strokes per round which is tied for third-best in the conference.

Also Nominated: Lucas Howell, MSUB; Carter Sheets, SMU.