Nighthawks, Yellowjackets Lead Winter Volleyball Start
Maddi Vigil (left) and Skyler Reed were named the GNAC Volleyball Players of the Week after leading MSUB to three wins last week.
Maddi Vigil (left) and Skyler Reed were named the GNAC Volleyball Players of the Week after leading MSUB to three wins last week.

Thursday, March 18, 2021

NIGHTHAWKS FLYING THROUGH WINTER SCHEDULE: While the 2020-21 volleyball season was shifted and modified thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, Northwest Nazarene wasted no time in getting back on the court as soon the opportunity presented itself.

The Nighthawks are eight matches into the season having played their first match at Eastern Washington on January 27. The team played its first five matches on the road. The highlight of the season-opening stretch was a five-set thriller with Division I Idaho State on February 13.

The second of a pair of back-to-back matches, the Nighthawks won the first set before the Bengals rebounded to take the next two frames. The third set was close as the Bengals battled point-for-point until converting on a pair of NNU errors for a 30-28 win. Northwest Nazarene bounced back to win a close fourth set before the Bengals surged to win the deciding fifth set.

Senior Abbey Blum led the Nighthawks with 17 kills and a .324 hitting percentage. Junior Mckenzie Lee finished with a double-double of 38 assists and 15 digs.

Since returning home, Northwest Nazarene has proceeded to win three straight matches. The streak includes two wins over Colorado Christian on February 26 and a four-set win over Westminster (Utah) on March 12.

Of the Nighthawks’ seven remaining matches, five will be against GNAC opponents. The Nighthawks travel to The Last Frontier this weekend for a pair of back-to-back matches at Alaska.

Junior Brooke Foster currently leads NNU offensively with 2.69 kills per set while junior Tayler Markland owns a .381 hitting percentage with a team-leading 30 blocks.

STINGING THEIR WAY THROUGH SHORT SCHEDULE: Montana State Billings is three weeks into its match schedule and has rolled to a 4-1 record.

The Yellowjackets played three matches last week and won them all, including a pair of five-set marathons. On March 10, they traded sets with crosstown rival Rocky Mountain before coasting in the fifth set for the victory. The Yellowjackets hit a solid .210 for the match, led by a 24-kill performance by junior Skylar Reed.

On Sunday, Montana State Billings won a pair of matches in Spearfish, S.D. After taking a four-set neutral site match with Mary, the Yellowjackets held off a fourth-set rally by Black Hills State before battling for the 15-13 win in the fifth set to secure the win.

The Yellowjackets closed out the South Dakota road trip with their third five-set match in five matches, once again holding off a fourth-set rally by South Dakota Mines to earn the win.

Reed was named the GNAC Volleyball Offensive Player of the Week for her efforts in the three matches last week, averaging 3.39 kills and 2.50 digs per set with a .287 hitting percentage. Senior Maddi Vigil was named the Volleyball Defensive Player of the Week after she averaged 4.15 digs per set in the three wins.

Montana State Billings will host Miles Community College in an exhibition match on Thursday. The Yellowjackets will close the season with a match at Carroll (Mont.) on March 30.

SEATTLE PACIFIC STARTS STRONG: Like its Idaho counterpart, Seattle Pacific got an early jump on the competitive season. The Falcons are 3-1 on the season but have not competed since taking a five-set win from Saint Martin’s on March 2.

The Falcons return to the court this weekend, playing at Northwest (Wash.) on Friday before hosting Alaska Anchorage for a pair of matches on Saturday. Seattle Pacific has 17 matches remaining on its schedule with competition slated to end on May 15.

Seattle Pacific opened the 2020-21 campaign with a pair of three-set sweeps over Seattle-area NAIA rival Northwest (Wash.) on February 27. The Falcons performed at a high level at the net with a .216 hitting percentage in the first match and a .260 hitting percentage in the nightcap.

The Falcons turned around later that week to engage Saint Martin’s in a pair of five-set matches on March 2. In the first match, SPU won the first set before the Saints rebounded to win the final three. The two teams traded sets in the second match before rolling in the fifth set to secure the split.

Freshman Hannah Hair and senior Maddie Batiste lead the SPU offense through four matches with 2.69 kills per set. Hair also has 28 blocks on her ledger while Batiste is averaging 2.31 digs per set. Freshman Maddie Pruden leads the team with her .364 hitting percentage.

MILESTONE VICTORY: Saint Martin’s set a key program milestone in that March 2 five-set season-opening win over Seattle Pacific. Not only was it the first win in Dan Behnke’s tenure as head coach but it was also the first win over the Falcons since a five-set victory back on Oct. 20, 2001, the first season of the GNAC.

In the match, the Saints hit over .300 in each of the final three sets with a high of .364 in the fourth set. Senior Mackenzie Carter led the Saints with a double-double of 14 kills and 12 digs. Sophomore Kylie Coon added a double-double of 13 kills and 10 digs.

Saint Martin’s returns from a two-week break from competition on Friday, hosting Alaska Anchorage.

SPRING THAW: When you have spent the fall and winter waiting in Fairbanks for the season to start, there’s no better place to open it up than Southern California.

Alaska started its 2020-21 season with three matches in the Los Angeles area, going 1-2 in a trio of four-set matches. The lone win was on March 8 as the Nanooks downed Biola. Alaska hit .182 in the victory led by a 13-kill performance by freshman Rilee White and a double-double of 26 assists and 14 digs by senior Cate Whiting.

Over the three matches, White leads Alaska with 2.55 kills per set and a .257 hitting percentage. Junior Dani Dodge is the defensive leader with 3.75 digs per set.

Alaska will play the first of four scheduled home matches this weekend, hosting Northwest Nazarene on Friday and Saturday.

START ME UP: Four other GNAC programs will start their COVID-shifted 2020-21 seasons over the next month. Alaska Anchorage opens this week with a road trip to face Saint Martin’s on Friday and Seattle Pacific on Saturday.

Central Washington, Western Oregon and Western Washington will all wait until April to open play. The Wildcats begin the season on April 3 with a pair of matches at Seattle Pacific. Western Oregon opens the following weekend with a match at Central Washington on April 9. Western Washington will not start the season until April 16 and 17 when it hosts Western Oregon.

Due to the continued closure of the U.S./Canada border due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Simon Fraser will not compete in volleyball this season.