Conference Play Heats Up This Week
Delaney Speer and the Vikings play host to Alaska Anchorage and Alaska this weekend at Carver Gym.
Delaney Speer and the Vikings play host to Alaska Anchorage and Alaska this weekend at Carver Gym.

Wednesday, September 20, 2023
by Evan O'Kelly

PORTLAND, Ore. – All 10 Great Northwest Athletic Conference volleyball teams are locked in for conference matches this weekend – the first of the 2023 season in which every league member will play a conference opponent.

Seattle Pacific climbed to the top of the early GNAC standings going 2-0 last weekend on the road. The Falcons will play host to Northwest Nazarene on Thursday at 7 p.m. before an intriguing date against No. 15 Central Washington on Saturday at 2 p.m. The preseason favorite Wildcats were upset by Simon Fraser in straight sets amid a 1-1 week, and will play at Montana State Billings on Thursday before Saturday’s match in the Emerald City.

Alaska Anchorage tangles with Western Washington on Thursday at 7 p.m. in Bellingham, in a matchup of teams that received votes in the latest AVCA/TARAFLEX rankings.

This Week's Conference Slate - Sept. 21-23
  Thursday, Sept. 21 Saturday, Sept. 23
Host Opponent Time Opponent Time
MSUB #15 CWU 7 p.m. NNU 1 p.m.
RV SPU NNU 7 p.m. #15 CWU 2 p.m.
RV SFU UAF 7 p.m. RV UAA 7 p.m.
WOU     SMU 7 p.m.
RV WWU RV UAA 7 p.m. UAF 7 p.m.


This Week's Storylines

TOP TEAMS CLASH IN SEATTLE: Saturday’s 2 p.m. (PDT) match between host SPU and No. 15 CWU is a can’t-miss contest for GNAC fans, as two of the league’s top teams go head-to-head in the second week of the conference season. The Wildcats (7-3, 1-1 GNAC) gutted out a victory over Western Washington last week, before a setback in the form of a three-set loss to Simon Fraser (6-4, 1-1) at home. Seattle Pacific meanwhile is the GNAC’s hottest team having won seven straight matches and entering this week with a record of 8-2 and 2-0 in league play.

SPU has ridden the performance of veterans Allison Wilks and Hannah Hair, who have provided a complementary punch that has been unmatched thus far in 2023. Wilks leads the league and ranks eighth nationally in hitting percentage at .445, while Hair is second in the conference in both hitting percentage (.402) and blocks per set (1.52).

Read More: At Long Last, Home In Brougham (SPU Preview)

Reigning GNAC Defensive Player of the Week Tia Andaya completed the conference’s first triple-double of the year in her team’s win over Western Washington, and currently ranks second in the GNAC in assists (8.67) and fifth in hitting percentage (.333). Emma Daoud-Hebert ranks second in Division II with 1.53 blocks per set, while contributing offensively with a hitting percentage of .333 to match Andaya.

LEAFS TURNING RED: On the first official day of fall Simon Fraser will play host to Alaska in a 7 p.m. match at the West Gym. SFU remained among the teams receiving votes in the latest top-25 coaches poll after a convincing sweep of the preseason favorite Wildcats last Saturday on the road. SFU will then play host to an Alaska Anchorage team on Saturday that is coming off a 4-0 week in non-conference play and remained among the teams receiving votes.

SFU’s Sophie Lachapelle has been its top offensive producer this fall, ranking third in the conference with 3.34 kills per set and ninth in hitting percentage at .295. Brooke Dexter delivered her best statistical performance of the season in the win over CWU, hitting season highs of 15 kills, six digs, and four total blocks to fuel the upset.

Read More: Dexter Delivers In Upset Of No. 13 CWU (SFU Recap)

For the Seawolves, Bethany Tuchardt earned GNAC Offensive Player of the Week after being an all-tournament selection at the Reddie-Tiger Invitational in Arkansas. The junior upped her kills per set figure to 2.53, which complements the team leader – Nicole Blue, 3.17 kps – to give UAA options offensively.

Read More: Border Rivals Await In Return To GNAC Action (UAA Preview)

Like UAA, the Nanooks went undefeated (3-0) in their non-conference tournament in North Carolina last week. Pulling their overall record nearly even at 7-8, the Nanooks will look to build off last week’s positives in a testing weekend at SFU and WWU. Rising sophomore Elena Guc moved up to No. 4 in the league in hitting percentage at .336, while libero Grace Steurer kept busy on the defensive side to now rank fourth in digs per set at 3.66.

Read More: Nanooks Go 2-0 Saturday (UAF Recap)

NIGHTHAWKS PRIMED FOR FALCONS, ‘JACKETS: Northwest Nazarene came inches away from a 2-0 weekend to start conference play, sweeping away Simon Fraser before a narrow five-set defeat at the hands of Western Washington. Senior Caroline McMahon has carried the Nighthawks defensively, ranking third in the GNAC with 4.56 digs per set and fifth in service aces with 0.49. NNU faces a tough test at Seattle Pacific on Thursday night, before traveling to Montana State Billings on Saturday.

DON’T LET WWU’S RECORD DECEIVE YOU: The fact that Western Washington has remained among teams receiving votes despite a 1-9 start to the season proves that the 10-time conference champions are as tough an opponent as any in the league this year. Seven of WWU’s losses came to teams in the top-25 and the other two against teams receiving votes, as the Vikings prepare for their 2023 home debut against UAA Thursday and Alaska Saturday. Emily Vossenkuhl enters the week third in the conference with 1.13 blocks per set, while preseason all-conference selection Devyn Oestreich leads the team with 2.31 kills per set.

Read More: Vikings Complete Reverse Sweep For First Win (WWU Recap)


1K & COUNTING FOR FUNK: Junior libero Christine Funk reached the 1,000-career digs plateau in the Yellowjackets’ midweek match against Rocky Mountain College on Tuesday night and enters the week 39 digs away from breaking into the top-10 list at MSUB. Funk leads the conference with 5.65 digs per set and ranks 12th nationally in that category as well as fourth nationally in total digs with 260. The Yellowjackets will look to snap their eight-match losing skid at home against Central Washington and Northwest Nazarene this weekend.

SOTO’S SAINTS, ASCIUTTO’S WOLVES CLASH: Saint Martin’s squares off against Western Oregon on Saturday night in Monmouth in the teams’ lone conference match of the week. The Saints’ Karla Soto leads the conference and ranks 20th nationally with 10.54 assists per set, and leads the league in service aces per set with 0.59. WOU’s Chloe Asciutto is right behind Soto at 0.57 service aces per set, while ranking 10th in blocks at 0.97.

Player to Watch

Gabi Moore – Northwest Nazarene

At the heart of the Northwest Nazarene offense lies junior setter Gabi Moore, who is quietly putting together one of the best starts to the season in the conference. Moore is coming off a career high 52 assists in the Nighthawks’ five-set loss to Western Washington and she has reached 19 or more assists in all 10 of NNU’s matches this season. Moore also completed her sixth double-double of the year in the match against WWU, adding a season-high 13 digs. Moore’s big performance elevated her to third in the conference with an average of 8.56 assists per set, and she also ranks eighth in the league with 0.41 service aces per set. A fourth-year veteran in Doug English’s program, Moore is poised for a breakout year as she has already shattered her career season high for assists (351) through her 41 sets played this fall.

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. 18, with No. 15 Central Washington being the lone conference school ranked in the top-25. After a 1-1 week in conference play, the Wildcats dropped two spots from last week’s No. 13 ranking. Seattle Pacific – winners of seven straight – was the sixth listed team outside the top-25 and was the top point-getter among GNAC teams that received votes. Western Washington, Alaska Anchorage, and Simon Fraser each also received votes to remain in the poll for the fourth consecutive week.

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. 19.

Team Rankings (Top-30)
Blocks Per Set: 4. SPU, 2.67; 5. CWU, 2.67
Hitting Percentage: 24. SPU, .254
Team Assists: 1. UAA, 654; 3. UAF, 630
Team Digs: 7. UAA, 846; 14. UAF, 794; 19. MSUB, 780
Team Kills: 1. UAA, 705; 3. UAF, 679
Team Service Aces: 5. UAA, 104; 18. UAF, 93
Team Attacks: 2. UAA, 1,970; 3. UAF, 1,934; 17. MSUB, 1,724
Team Blocks: 3. UAA, 111.0; 5. UAF, 109.0; 17. CWU, 96.0; 21. SPU, 93.5
Individual Rankings (Top-50)
Aces Per Set: 42. Karla Soto, SMU, 0.59; 47. Chloe Asciutto, WOU, 0.57
Assists Per Set: 20. Karla Soto, SMU, 10.54
Blocks Per Set: 2. Emma Daoud-Hebert, CWU, 1.53; 3. Hannah Hair, SPU, 1.52; 42. Emily Vossenkuhl, WWU, 1.13; 48. Morgan Halady, CWU, 1.11
Digs Per Set: 12. Christine Funk, MSUB, 5.65
Hitting Percentage: 8. Allison Wilks, SPU, .445; 19. Hannah Hair, SPU, .402; 25. Jennifer Soha, SMU, .392
Service Aces: 2. Nicole Blue, UAA, 33; 21. Rilee White, UAF, 24; 27. Karla Soto, SMU, 23; 40. Sirena Peredo, SMU, 21; 49. Chloe Asciutto, WOU, 20; 49. Caroline McMahon, NNU, 20
Assists: 22. Karla Soto, SMU, 411
Attacks: 5. Nicole Blue, UAA, 537; 18. Karli Nielson, UAF, 453; 47. Bethany Tuchardt, UAA, 408
Blocks: 5. Emma Daoud-Hebert, CWU, 55; 11. Hannah Hair, SPU, 50; 28. Leilani Elder, UAA, 45; 28. Paiten Langston, MSUB, 45
Digs: 4. Christine Funk, MSUB, 260; 38. Grace Steurer, UAF, 194; 46. Caroline McMahon, NNU, 187
Kills: 9. Nicole Blue, UAA, 187 ; 24. Karli Nielson, UAF, 162; 39. Bethany Tuchardt, UAA, 149

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. 18 Bethany Tuchardt, Alaska Anchorage Tia Andaya, Central Washington

Sept. 18 GNAC Volleyball Players of the Week

Offensive Player of the Week: Bethany Tuchardt – Alaska Anchorage

Tuchardt averaged 3.31 kills per set on .475 hitting to help the Seawolves to a 4-0 record (12-1 in sets) at the Reddie-Tiger Invitational in Arkadelphia, Ark. Tuchardt hit at least .429 in all four matches, starting with eight kills on .429 hitting in a sweep of Union. The junior outside hitter ripped a then-career-high 14 kills on .565 hitting (14-1-23) and reached a career-high 16 total points with four block assists in the team’s 3-0 win over Ouachita Baptist. On Saturday Tuchardt hit .500 with four block assists in a sweep of Arkansas Monticello, and finished with a career best of 16 kills (.429, 16-1-35) in a 3-1 win over Henderson State, which had entered with a 9-2 record and eight straight wins. Tuchardt’s hitting percentage of .475 over the weekend was the second highest among all GNAC players and her average of 3.31 kills per set was fifth best. The big performance earned her all-tournament recognition as well.

Also Nominated: Karli Nielson, UAF; Scottie Ellsworth, CWU; Karla Soto, SMU; Allison Wilks, SPU; Brooke Dexter, SFU; Devyn Oestreich, WWU.

Defensive Player of the Week: Tia Andaya – Central Washington

Completing the conference’s first triple-double of the year and her GNAC-record 13th, Andaya helped the 13th-ranked Wildcats to a 3-1 victory over Western Washington on Thursday. The preseason player of the year had 36 assists to go along with 11 kills and 11 digs, while adding three total blocks. Andaya followed with a near triple double on Saturday, finishing with 22 assists, 11 digs and six kills in a match against Simon Fraser. Andaya ranked third last week among conference players with 1.57 blocks per set including 11 total blocks, while leading all conference players with a hitting percentage of .577.

Also Nominated: Madison Galloway, UAA; Rilee White, UAF; Christine Funk, MSUB; Caroline McMahon, NNU; Abigail Halstead, SMU; Hannah Hair, SPU; Kalyn Hartmann, SFU; Chloe Asciutto, WOU.

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
Reddie-Tiger Invitational
Sept. 15-16 at Arkadelphia, Ark. (Ouachita Baptist & Henderson State, Hosts)
Alaska Anchorage: Leilani Elder, MB; Bethany Tuchardt, OH