Full GNAC Slate Awaits Volleyball Teams
Simon Fraser's Sophie Lachapelle is coming off a career-high 25 kills in the Red Leafs' most recent victory.
Simon Fraser's Sophie Lachapelle is coming off a career-high 25 kills in the Red Leafs' most recent victory.

Wednesday, September 13, 2023
by Evan O'Kelly

PORTLAND, Ore. – Great Northwest Athletic Conference volleyball action is in full swing this weekend as eight teams make their conference debuts.

No. 13 Central Washington, Saint Martin’s, Northwest Nazarene, and Western Oregon each host a pair of conference matches while the Alaska schools head east for non-conference competition.

This Week's Conference Slate - Sept. 14-16
  Thursday, Sept. 14 Saturday, Sept. 16
Host Opponent Time Opponent Time
No. 13 CWU RV WWU 7 p.m. RV SFU 1 p.m.
SMU MSUB 7 p.m. RV SPU 3 p.m.
NNU RV SFU 7 p.m. RV WWU 1 p.m.
WOU RV SPU 7 p.m. MSUB 7 p.m.


This Week's Storylines

RED-HOT WILDCATS HOST VIKINGS: No. 13 Central Washington enters conference play on a six-match winning streak and was named the GNAC Team of the Week on Monday after improving to 6-2 on the season. The preseason favorites will play host to the preseason second-ranked team in Western Washington on Thursday night at 7 p.m. in the teams’ first conference match of the year. The Wildcats proved they are the real deal last week, taking down No. 7 Minnesota Duluth and No. 5 St. Cloud State in consecutive matches at the Up North Tournament. Tia Andaya, Scottie Ellsworth, and GNAC Defensive Player of the Week Hannah Stires were each named to the all-tournament team.

Read More: Wildcats Host Vikings, Red Leafs (CWU Preview)

While it hasn’t been the start to the 2023 season that Western Washington (0-8) has hoped for, the Vikings have played a rigorous schedule with 5 of 8 matches being against nationally ranked opposition. WWU is coming off four losses at the Colorado Premier Challenge, which included a tilt against now-No. 1 Concordia-St. Paul. They’ll travel to Nampa, Idaho for a Thursday afternoon clash with Northwest Nazarene after Thursday’s prime time match up in Ellensburg.

FALCONS FLY INTO LEAGUE SCHEDULE: Like the Wildcats, Seattle Pacific cruises into conference play with the momentum of an undefeated weekend. The Falcons (6-2) play at Western Oregon on Thursday night before facing Saint Martin’s on Saturday night in a pair of road matches. Sarah Brachvogel was named MVP of the Cougar Classic last weekend, and enters this week ranked third in the conference with 3.48 kills per set. Preseason all-conference pick Hannah Hair is coming off a weekend in which she had 29 blocks, which upped her to No. 2 in the league with an average of 1.48 blocks per set.

Read More: It’s GNAC Volleyball Time For Falcons (SPU Preview)

YELLOWJACKETS’ FUNK LEADS NCAA: As of Sept. 13, Montana State Billings libero Christine Funk led Division II in total digs racking up 195 in her first eight matches of the season. The third-year Yellowjacket ranks 12th in the country with 5.57 digs per set, and has elevated herself as one of the league’s top defensive players this fall. Funk’s Yellowjackets take on Saint Martin’s on Thursday and Western Oregon on Saturday to kick off their conference schedule.

SMU’s Karla Soto is also among national statistics leaders, entering the week ranked 18th in Division II with 10.50 assists per set. The Saints will play host to Seattle Pacific on Saturday afternoon at 3 p.m. in Marcus Pavilion after their match against MSUB.

NIGHTHAWKS PLAY HOST TO RED LEAFS, VIKS: Northwest Nazarene will face a strong test in its first conference matches of the season, hosting Simon Fraser on Thursday night and Western Washington on Saturday at the Johnson Sports Center. After starting the season 4-0, the Nighthawks (4-4) endured a challenging weekend at their tournament in Southern California. Maren Dent ranks sixth in the conference with 3.03 kills per set and Caroline McMahon is third in the league in digs per set with 4.30.

SFU’s Sophie Lachapelle had a breakout weekend with 4.29 kills per set – a figure that led all players in the conference. She capped the Red Leafs’ 2-2 week with a career-high 25-kill effort against Point Loma, and upped her hitting percentage on the season to .307 which ranks sixth in the conference. SFU’s Saturday matchup with CWU figures to be an intriguing one on opening weekend.

Read More: Sophie Lachapelle Delivers 25-Kill Performance In Big Win Over Sea Lions (SFU Release)

ALASKAS HEADING EAST: Alaska Anchorage and Alaksa will be the two GNAC teams to not play conference matches this weekend, as they’ll head to tournaments in Arkansas and North Carolina, respectively. The Seawolves are coming off a 3-1 win over their in-state rivals in the first GNAC match of the 2023 season, but stalled after that with three straight losses at the Denali State Bank Ice Block Classic. UAA will square off against Ouachita Baptist, Union, Henderson State, and Arkansas-Monticello, while Alaska will play St. Augustine, Mount Olive and Shaw.

Lily Stewart and Karli Nielson keyed the Nanooks to a 3-1 weekend at their home tournament with Stewart upping her season hitting percentage to .302 which ranks ninth in the conference. Nielson meanwhile is averaging 2.77 kills per set which slates her 10th in the GNAC, and Elena Guc is fifth in hitting percentage at .336.

Read More: Seawolves Sail South For First Arkansas Trip (UAA Preview)

Player to Watch

Sirena Peredo – Saint Martin’s

Emerging into an early candidate for GNAC Freshman of the Year, Peredo got the attention of coaches in Colorado last week by earning all-tournament mention at the UCCS Cougar Classic. Peredo racked up 38 kills for an average of 2.71 per set on her way to helping the Saints win 3 of 4 matches in Colorado Springs. Peredo also had her second double-double of the year, with a season-high 15 kills and 10 digs in SMU’s four-set win over the tournament hosts. Through the first eight matches of her collegiate career, Peredo is averaging 2.60 kills per set, 2.60 digs per set and has racked up 15 service aces which ranks second on the team.

Read More: Peredo Named All-Tournament (SMU Release)

National Rankings

The AVCA/TARAFLEX NCAA Division II rankings are released every Monday throughout the 2023 season. The GNAC had five representatives in the latest rankings released on Sept. 11, including a 10-spot leap by Central Washington up to No. 13. It is the highest ranking achieved by a GNAC team this season and was spurred by the Wildcats’ two wins over top-10 opponents last week. Alaska Anchorage and Western Washington dropped out of the top-25 for the first time this season, but remained among the teams receiving votes. Seattle Pacific held strong in the receiving votes category after a 4-0 weekend, and Simon Fraser appeared on the list for the first time in 2023.

Poll Team 1 Team 2 Team 3 Team 4 Team 5
Preseason 14. UAA 15. WWU RV CWU RV SPU --
Sept. 4 21. UAA 22. WWU 23. CWU RV SPU --
GNAC Volleyball In The NCAA Statistical National Rankings

Through matches on Sept. 12.

Team Rankings (Top-30)
Assists Per Set: 28. SPU, 12.45.
Blocks Per Set: 5. CWU, 2.66; 13. SPU, 2.50.
Hitting Percentage: 15. SPU, .268.
Kills Per Set: 29. SFU, 13.41.
Assists: 2. UAA, 493; 3. UAF, 476; 21. SMU, 372.
Digs: 1. UAA, 692; 3. UAF, 616; 5. MSUB, 604.
Kills: 2. UAA, 529; 3. UAF, 513.
Service Aces: 10. UAA, 70; 25. UAF, 66; 29. NNU, 64.
Total Attacks: 1. UAA, 1,561; 2. UAF, 1,515; 5. MSUB, 1,323; 25. NNU, 1,151.
Blocks: 1. UAF, 93.0; 3. UAA, 85.0; 8. CWU, 77.0; 17. SPU, 72.5; 18. MSUB, 72.0.
Individual Rankings (Top-50)
Aces Per Set: 33. Chloe Asciutto, WOU, 0.67.
Assists Per Set: 18. Karla Soto, SMU, 10.50.
Blocks Per Set: 4. Emma Daoud-Hebert, CWU, 1.48; 5. Hannah Hair, SPU, 1.48; 45. Emily Vossenkuhl, WWU, 1.16.
Digs Per Set: 12. Christine Funk, MSUB, 5.57.
Hitting Percentage: 8. Allison Wilks, SPU, .455; 21. Hannah Hair, SPU, .409; 44. Jennifer Soha, SMU, .372.
Kills Per Set: 50. Sophie Lachapelle, SFU, 3.72.
Points Per Set: 49. Madison Hornback, WOU, 4.28.
Service Aces: 2. Nicole Blue, UAA, 24; 7. Rilee White, UAF, 20; 24. Chloe Asciutto, WOU, 18; 32. Karla Soto, SMU, 17; 43. Caroline McMahon, NNU, 16; 43. Gabi Moore, NNU, 16.
Total Assists: 12. Karla Soto, SMU, 315; 29. Ainsley Smith, UAF, 291; 35. Makana Eleneki, UAA, 281; 39. Gabi Moore, NNU, 276.
Total Attacks: 3. Nicole Blue, UAA, 406; 6. Karli Nielson, UAF, 358; 14. Bethany Tuchardt, UAA, 328; 36. Aubrey Allison, MSUB, 299; 44. Maren Dent, NNU, 291.
Total Blocks: 5. Emma Daoud-Hebert, CWU, 43; 6. Isabel Evans, UAA, 41; 7. Hannah Hair, SPU, 40; 13. Leilani Elder, UAA, 37; 13. Paiten Langston, MSUB, 37; 27. Josie Jansen, UAF, 34; 40. Morgan Halady, CWU, 33; 40. Elizabeth Jackson, UAF, 33.
Total Digs: 1. Christine Funk, MSUB, 195; 13. Grace Steurer, UAF, 151; 27. Caroline McMahon, NNU, 142; 36. Nicole Blue, UAA, 135; 48. Reilly Plumhoff, UAA, 127.
Total Kills: 7. Nicole Blue, UAA, 133; 23. Karli Nielson, UAF, 119; 40. Sophie Lachapelle, SFU, 108; 44. Bethany Tuchardt, UAA, 106.

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
Sept. 5 Madison Hornback, Western Oregon Christine Funk, Montana State Billings
Sept. 11 Sarah Brachvogel, Seattle Pacific Hannah Stires, Central Washington

Sept. 11 GNAC Volleyball Players of the Week

Offensive: Sarah Brachvogel, Seattle Pacific

Brachvogel was named the Most Valuable Player of the Cougar Classic as she had by far the best week of her career in helping the Falcons go 4-0, the only undefeated team in the tournament. She recorded 59 kills on .241 hitting, 34 digs, seven blocks and three service aces. Her kills total included a career-high 23 in Friday’s 3-2 victory against Concordia Irvine in the tournament opener. She hit .321 in that match and came up with 11 digs for her second career double-double. Brachvogel had another double-double of 14 kills and 11 digs in the next match, a 3-0 sweep of host Cal State San Marcos. She also had three blocks in that match. On Saturday, she had 15 kills in a 3-1 victory against St. Edward’s, and eight more on .316 hitting in a 3-0 sweep of Colorado School of Mines, which was receiving votes in last week’s national poll. Through two weeks, Brachvogel is No. 3 in the GNAC in kills per set at 3.48 and No. 20 in hitting at .255. 

Also Nominated: Nicole Blue, UAA; Lily Stewart, UAF; Tia Andaya, CWU, Paiten Langston, MSUB; Sophie Lachapelle, SFU; Madison Hornback, SOU; Delaney Speer, WWU.

Defensive: Hannah Stires, Central Washington

Stires led all GNAC players last week with 5.29 digs per set, helping propel the Wildcats to the most impressive wins the conference has seen this season. Stires racked up a season high 26 digs in CWU’s dramatic five-set win over No. 5 St. Cloud State on Saturday, and followed that with 23 digs in the Wildcats’ three-set win over Michigan Tech to extend their winning streak to six matches. Stires has reached double figures in digs in 7 of 8 matches this season and ranks second in the conference with 4.34 digs per set.

Also Nominated: Madison Galloway, UAA; Grace Steurer, UAF; Christine Funk, MSUB; Hannah Hair, SPU, Macyn Unger, SFU; Emily Vossenkuhl, WWU.

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
Otter Classic
Aug. 31-Sept. 2 at Seaside, Calif. (Cal State Monterey Bay, Host)
Northwest Nazarene: Maren Dent, OH - MVP; Caroline McMahon, L; Gabi Moore, S
Stanislaus State Labor Day Tournament
Aug. 31-Sept. 2 at Turlock, Calif. (Cal State Stanislaus, Host)
Western Oregon: Madison Hornback, OH-MVP; Bailee Hartsook, OH
2023 Seawolf Invitational
Aug. 31-Sept. 2 at Anchorage, Alaska (Alaska Anchorage, Host)
Alaska Anchorage: Leilani Elder, MB; Reilly Plumhoff, DS
Alaska: Ella Bines, RS
Yellowjacket Invitational
Sept. 1-2 at Billings, Mont. (Montana State Billings, Host)
Montana State Billings: Christine Funk, L; Julia Gordon, OH; Paiten Langston, MB)
2023 Yotes Classic Showcase
Aug. 31-Sept. 2 at San Bernardino, Calif. (Cal State San Bernardino, Host)
Central Washington: Tia Andaya, S
Western Washington: Delaney Speer, OH
2023 UCCS Mountain Lion Classic
Sept. 8-9 at Colorado Springs, Colo. (UC Colorado Springs, Host)
Saint Martin’s: Sirena Peredo, DS
Western Oregon: Madison Hornback, OH
Cougar Classic
Sept. 8-9 at San Marcos, Calif. (Cal State San Marcos, Host)
Seattle Pacific: Sarah Brachvogel, OH-MVP; Hannah Hair, MB; Emily Tulino, S; Allison Wilks, OH; Erin Smith, MB; Maddie Pruden, OPP
Denali State Bank Ice Block Classic
Sept. 7-9 at Fairbanks, Alaska (University of Alaska, Host)
Alaska Anchorage: Nicole Blue, OH
Alaska: Karli Nielson, OH; Lily Stewart, PIN
Up North Tournament
Sept. 8-9 at Duluth, Minn. (University of Minnesota Duluth, Host)
Central Washington: Tia Andaya, S/OH; Scottie Ellsworth, OH; Hannah Stires, DS/L