GNAC VB Season Ramps Up Into Full Action
Allison Wilks and the Seattle Pacific volleyball team get their 2023 campaign started this weekend in Southern California.
Allison Wilks and the Seattle Pacific volleyball team get their 2023 campaign started this weekend in Southern California.

Tuesday, August 29, 2023

PORTLAND, Ore. – Forty volleyball matches this weekend featuring Great Northwest Athletic Conference teams signal the full start to the 2023 campaign, as all 10 conference members are set for action.

Eight different tournaments in five states across the Western U.S. will play host to the conference’s members, who are each set for four matches to kick off the season. It will be the 2023 debut for all except Alaska Anchorage and Alaska, which got their seasons started early at the Alaska/Hawaii Challenge last week in Fairbanks.

GNAC Volleyball Schedule - Aug. 31 - Sept. 2
Tournament Location GNAC Teams Competing
Seawolf Invitational Anchorage, Alaska Alaska, #14 Alaska Anchorage
Yellowjacket Invitational Billings, Mont. Montana State Billings
Hawaii Challenge Honolulu, Hawaii Simon Fraser
Seaside Invitational San Marcos, Calif. RV Seattle Pacific
Otter Invitational Seaside, Calif. Northwest Nazarene
Westminster Invitational Salt Lake City, Utah Saint Martin's
Yotes Classic Showcase San Bernardino, Calif. RV Central Washington, #15 Western Washington
Stanislaus State Tournament Turlock, Calif. Western Oregon

This Week's Storylines


VIKINGS, WILDCATS SQUARE OFF AGAINST THE BEST: Western Washington, which was ranked No. 15 in the 2023 AVCA/TARAFLEX preseason top-25 poll, and GNAC preseason favorite Central Washington get their highly anticipated seasons going with as tough a schedule as can be constructed. The Vikings will open against No. 18 Regis and No. 19 Cal State San Bernardino on Thursday, take on No. 9 Cal State LA on Friday and cap the weekend against No. 3 MSU Denver on Saturday. The Wildcats, who received votes in the initial national rankings, will play the same four touted opponents taking on MSU Denver Thursday, Cal State San Bernardino Friday, and Cal State L.A. and Regis on Saturday.

FALCONS FACE EARLY TESTS IN SOCAL: Receiving votes in the preseason national poll, Seattle Pacific will square off against four strong opponents to kick off its season. SPU’s first two matches at the Seaside Invitational are against Lewis and Point Loma, which each also garnered votes in the preseason rankings. The Falcons will also play Biola and Cal State San Marcos and will remain in Southern California for a Tuesday tilt at Vanguard in Costa Mesa, before next week's Cougar Classic in San Marcos.

RED LEAFS HEAD TO BIG ISLAND: Simon Fraser will be on island time this weekend, taking on four opponents at the Hawaii Challenge in Honolulu. Among the Red Leafs’ foes are Chaminade, which was the first team out of the top-25 rankings, and Sonoma State which also received votes on preseason ballots. SFU also faces West Virginia State and Hawaii Pacific.

ALASKA SCHOOLS LOOK TO BUILD OFF HEAD START: A pair of nationally ranked teams will feature at the Alaska Airlines Center, with the prime matchup at the Seawolf Classic being No. 14 Alaska Anchorage playing host to No. 7 St. Cloud State on Friday night at 7 p.m. (AKDT). The Seawolves and the Nanooks of Alaska will each take on Upper Iowa, Cal Poly Humboldt, and Florida Tech along with St. Cloud State over the weekend. Both teams enter the week with a 1-3 record after their opening weekend in Fairbanks.

SAINTS HEAD TO SALT LAKE: Saint Martin’s opens its 2023 campaign at the Westminster Invitational in Utah, with a pair of matches each on Friday and Saturday. The Saints will circle their Friday morning (8 a.m. MDT) affair with No. 16 Nebraska-Kearney, and will also take on Purdue-Northwest, Oklahoma Christian and Texas Woman’s over the weekend.

OTTERS, PENGUINS AND… NIGHTHAWKS: Northwest Nazarene will get its 2023 season started at the Otter Invitational hosted by Cal State Monterey Bay. NNU will face Minnesota State Mankato Thursday, Westmont and Dominican on Friday and close the weekend against the hosts on Saturday. The Nighthawks will have an early look at a pair of west region opponents on their opening weekend in the Otters and the Penguins.

WOLVES PACK SCHEDULE W/REGIONAL COMPETITION: All four of Western Oregon’s opponents on opening weekend are in the west region, as the Wolves look for a strong start at the Stanislaus State Tournament in Turlock, Calif. WOU takes on host Stanislaus State on Thursday at 5:30 p.m. (PDT), before facing Chico State Friday and Academy of Art and Fresno Pacific on Saturday.

2 DAYS OF CHAOS AT ALTEROWITZ GYM: Montana State Billings plays host to the Yellowjacket Invitational, with six matches per day on Friday and Saturday starting at 8 a.m. (MDT). The Yellowjackets will take on Mary and Minot State on Friday, before toeing the line against Southeastern Oklahoma State and Lubbock Christian to close out the tournament on Saturday.

Player to Watch


Ainsley Smith – Alaska Nanooks

Keep an eye on Alaska setter Ainsley Smith, who racked up an average of 8.79 assists per set during the Nanooks’ opening weekend of games. In the Nanooks’ five-set victory over Hawaii Hilo on Saturday, Smith blew away her career high with 53 assists, which was 13 better than her season high of 40 on Nov. 12, 2022 against Western Oregon. The North Pole native is coming off an average of 5.47 assists per set in 2022 – a figure that led the team and ranked eighth in the conference. In addition to her facilitation, Smith chipped in 25 digs and 11.0 total blocks over the Nanooks’ first four matches of the 2023 campaign.

National Rankings
Poll Team 1 Team 2 Team 3 Team 4
Preseason 14. UAA 15. WWU RV CWU RV SPU

2023 GNAC Volleyball Players of the Week
Date Offensive Player of the Week Defensive Player of the Week
Aug. 28 Nicole Blue, Alaska Anchorage Elizabeth Jackson, Alaska

2023 All-Tournament Selections
Hawaii/Alaska Challenge 
Aug. 24-26 at Fairbanks, Alaska (Alaska, Host)
Alaska: Grace Steurer, OH; Karli Nielson, OH
Alaska Anchorage: Nicole Blue, OH; Makana Eleneki, S