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Western Washington No. 3 in AVCA Preseason Poll
Malia Aleaga is among five Western Washington players named to the GNAC Preseason All-Conference Team.
Malia Aleaga is among five Western Washington players named to the GNAC Preseason All-Conference Team.

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

PORTLAND, Ore. – Led by a top five ranking for defending champion Western Washington, four GNAC teams earned spots in the American Volleyball Coaches Association Division II Preseason Poll.

The Vikings, which won the West Region championship and advanced to the Division II semifinals, are ranked No. 3 with 985 points. Western Washington, the top-ranked West Region team, was one of four teams to receive a first-place vote, receiving four from coaches.

Three GNAC squads, Alaska Anchorage, Central Washington and Simon Fraser, were among 25 teams receiving votes.

Western Washington captured both the GNAC and NCAA West Region titles and advanced to the Division II national semifinals for the fourth time in program history. The team led the GNAC and was second among Division II teams with 2.75 blocks per set. The Vikings also ranked in the Division II top-30 with a .246 hitting percentage and 13.61 kills per set.

Senior outside hitter Gabby Gunterman was named the 2021 GNAC Player of the Year and AVCA First Team All-American honors and was named the GNAC Preseason Player of the Year after finishing the season with 3.24 kills per set, a .236 hitting percentage, 3.42 digs per set and 0.61 blocks per set. The Vikings landed five players on the GNAC Preseason All-Conference Team, including senior outside hitter Calley Heilborn, seniot setter Malia Aleaga and senior middle blockers Chloe Roetcisoender and Olivia Fairchild.

Central Washington went 17-9 last season and advanced to the program’s ninth straight West Regional. The Wildcats surged into the postseason by winning six of their final seven regular-season matches. Central averaged 12.42 kills per set and ranked 22nd in Division II with 2.31 blocks per set. Like the Vikings, CWU returns 12 players and five of six starters.

Junior setter/outside hitter Tia Andaya returns after earning Third Team AVCA All-American and GNAC Newcomer of the Year honors. Andaya averaged 2.27 kills per set, 5.07 assists per set, 2.24 digs per set and 0.54 blocks per set after transferring from Division I Gonzaga. She set the GNAC single-season record with eight triple-doubles. The Wildcats landed three on the Preseason All-Conference Team, including junior outside hitter Ashley Kaufman and sophomore libero Hannah Stires.

Alaska Anchorage parlayed a strong start to the season into another trip to the postseason. The Seawolves won seven of their first eight matches of the season and nine of their first 10 conference matches on their way to a 19-12 overall record and a tie for second in the conference standings with Central Washington. The Seawolves averaged 12.61 kills per set while leading the GNAC and finishing 15th in Division II with 2.08 aces per set. A stout defensive team, UAA was second in the GNAC with a .163 hitting percentage.

Senior right-side hitter Eve Stephens will be aiming for her fourth straight First Team All-GNAC selection in 2022. The Second Team AVCA All-American and Third Team CoSIDA Academic All-American averaged 3.84 kills and 4.67 points per set, ranking second in the conference in the top 30 in Division II in both categories. Senior setter Ellen Floyd was a First Team All-GNAC choice. She averaged 10.07 assists per set and led the conference with 0.48 aces per set.

Simon Fraser surged over the second half of the season to finish with a 17-9 overall record. One of three teams tied for fourth in the GNAC at 11-7, SFU emerged from that tie to round out the conference’s four selections to the NCAA West Regional. Simon Fraser closed the regular season by winning nine of 12 matches. Simon Fraser ranked second in the GNAC with 13.53 kills per set and was third with 16.62 digs per set. The team returns 11 players and six starters.

Sophomore opposite Brooke Dexter impressed in her first year, earning GNAC and AVCA West Region Freshman of the Year honors and was also named a Third Team AVCA All-American. She led the GNAC and ranked 12th in Division II with 4.16 kills and 4.70 points per set. Junior middle blocker Kalyn Hartmann averaged 2.04 kills per set with a .258 hitting percentage and ranked 10th in the conference with one block per set.

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