Nighthawks Aim To Even Volleyball Record In April
Brooke Foster leads Northwest Nazarene offensively with 2.61 kills and 2.86 digs per set this season.
Brooke Foster leads Northwest Nazarene offensively with 2.61 kills and 2.86 digs per set this season.

Friday, April 2, 2021

NIGHTHAWKS PULLING TOWARDS EVEN: With two weeks remaining in its spring 2021 season, Northwest Nazarene stands a chance to pull its record back to even or perhaps better.

The Nighthawks went 0-5 in January and February with a schedule that proved challenging. Three of those losses came against Division I teams, including an exciting five-set affair at Idaho State on February 13.

Since then, the Nighthawks have proceeded to win five of seven matches to improve to 5-7 on the season. Four of those wins came against RMAC foe Colorado Christian. Northwest Nazarene swept a pair of home matches from the Cougars on February 26.

In a return road trip to Denver earlier this week, the Nighthawks proceeded to pick up their first road wins of the season. On Tuesday, NNU held off a rally in the final two sets to secure a five-set win behind an 11-kill performance by senior Abbey Blum. The Nighthawks took a four-set win on Wednesday with Blum repeating her 11-kill effort.

Northwest Nazarene’s two losses in its most recent stretch of matches came on the road in Fairbanks with Alaska winning a five-set affair on March 19 and a three-set sweep on March 20. The two teams will meet again for a pair of matches in Nampa on Friday and Saturday. The Nighthawks will close out the season at Seattle Pacific on April 10.

Junior Brooke Foster currently leads the Nighthawks with averages of 2.61 kills and 2.86 digs per set. Junior Tayler Markland owns a team-best .348 hitting percentage. As a team, the Nighthawks are hitting .201 and averaging 11.55 kills per set.

SEAWOLVES OPEN STRONG: The long layoff did little to slow down Alaska Anchorage, which compiled a 4-1 record over the month of March after 16 months off.

The Seawolves opened the season with a three-match trip to the Puget Sound region and walked away with three victories. They opened with a four-set win at Saint Martin’s on March 19 before taking both ends of a doubleheader at Seattle Pacific on March 20. The opener came in a three-set sweep while UAA held off a fourth-set rally by the Falcons for a five-set victory.

Junior middle blocker Eve Stephens was named the GNAC Volleyball Offensive Player of the Week on March 22 for her 53 kills in the three matches, topped by her 26 kills and 13 digs in the five-set victory over Seattle Pacific.

Alaska Anchorage returned home the following weekend for its only home matches of the season in the Seawolf Sports Complex. The Seawolves swept a three-set match from Alaska on Friday before dropping a five-set thriller to the Nanooks on Saturday.

Even with the split, UAA swept the conference’s weekly honors. Freshman Nicole Blue was named the GNAC Offensive Player of the Week after had 24 kills and a .404 hitting percentage in the two matches, including 14 kills and a .462 hitting percentage in the five-set match. Senior Vera Pluharova earned Defensive Player of the Week honors for her 14 blocks and 1.50 kills per set in the series.

Stephens leads Alaska Anchorage on the season with 79 kills and a .305 hitting percentage. Blue has 59 kills and a .309 hitting percentage while Pluharova is averaging 1.15 blocks per set.

Alaska Anchorage is scheduled to play 11 matches in April, beginning with doubleheaders against Western Oregon and Central Washington in Ellensburg, Washington on April 10 and 11.

HISTORY MADE IN ANCHORAGE: When Alaska scored that five-set win over Alaska Anchorage on Saturday, it was one for the record books.

The victory marked the first time in over a decade that the Nanooks had defeated the Seawolves in Anchorage. The last was a four-set win on Sept. 18, 2010. With the victory, Alaska improved to 4-3 on the season.

The Seawolves did not make it easy to earn the win. With the Nanooks up 2-1, UAA limited its up-state rivals to just four kills and a -.314 hitting percentage to win the fourth set 25-5. Alaska Anchorage won three of the first four points of the fifth set. Alaska rallied to take as much as a four-point lead en route to the victory.

Senior Lahra Weber led the Nanooks with a near double-double of 16 kills and nine digs. Weber and senior AveRee Reynolds currently lead UAF with 2.44 kills per set while senior Emily Moorhead has a team-leading .207 hitting percentage.

Alaska will close the season with two more series against GNAC opponents. The Nanooks travel to Nampa, Idaho to face Northwest Nazarene on Friday and Saturday. They close the season by hosting Alaska Anchorage for a pair of matches on April 16 and 17.

A STINGER OF A SEASON: The Montana State Billings season was just six matches long but the Yellowjackets made the most of every moment.

The Yellowjackets concluded the season with their fourth five-set match of the season, prevailing in five sets at Carroll in Helena. With the victory, MSUB closed the 2020-21 campaign with a 5-1 record plus a three-set exhibition win over Williston State to open the year.

Montana State Billings bounced back from a first-set loss to earn the win, taking the second and third sets and eventually a 15-13 fifth-set win to secure the match. Senior Bayli Monck closed out the season with a double-double with 23 kills and 10 digs while Maddi Vigil had 33 digs and four aces in her final match in blue and yellow.

Junior Skylar Reed led MSUB offensively on the season with 93 kills and 3.32 kills per set. Senior Joelle Mahowald finished the season with a .314 hitting percentage.

HOME SWEET BROUGHAM: The rest of the season awaits Seattle Pacific. The Falcons have 15 matches remaining on their schedule, 10 of which will take place at SPU’s Royal Brougham Pavilion.

After playing four matches in a four-day stretch between February 27 and March 2, the Falcons have played just three matches since. The first was on March 19 when SPU posted its third three-set sweep of the season over Northwest (Wash.). The other two matches were on March 20 as the Falcons took a three-set loss and a five-set loss to Alaska Anchorage.

The April schedule begins this weekend as the Falcons host Central Washington for a doubleheader on Saturday.

Senior Maddie Batiste leads Seattle Pacific with 73 kills and 2.70 kills per set. Freshman Hannah Hair has compiled a .339 hitting percentage and 37 total blocks.

WHEN DIVISION I TEAMS COME CALLING: After hosting Alaska Anchorage on March 19, Saint Martin’s was preparing for a three-week layoff from competition when the unexpected chance to host a Division I team came along.

The Lancers were in Seattle to face fellow WAC opponent Seattle U when the two matches between the teams were canceled. Making lemonade out of lemons, Cal Baptist was able to schedule matches against Northwest (Wash.) on March 22 and the Saints on March 23.

While Cal Baptist won the match in three sets, Saint Martin’s used the opportunity to break up its break and gain some good playing experience. The Saints hit .116 in the match, led by 12 kills and a .346 hitting percentage by Kylie Coon. The sophomore leads the Saints offensively through their four matches with 48 kills and 2.82 kills per set.

Saint Martin’s is looking ahead to nine matches in the month of April. The Saints return to the court with matches against Northwest (Wash.) on April 9 and 10.

THEIR TURN IS COMING: Three GNAC teams are awaiting their first chance to take the court over the next two weeks. Central Washington will open its 13-match this weekend with a Saturday doubleheader at Seattle Pacific.

Western Oregon will play a 10-match schedule, all on the road. The season opens on Friday, April 9 at Central Washington. The Wolves will then take on Alaska Anchorage in an April 10 neutral-site doubleheader at Ellensburg.

Western Washington will open its 14-match season April 16 and 17 when it hosts Western Oregon for three matches.