Falcons Fly Into AVCA Top-25
MSUB libero Christine Funk leads Division II with 336 digs this season.
MSUB libero Christine Funk leads Division II with 336 digs this season.

Wednesday, September 27, 2023
by Evan O'Kelly

PORTLAND, Ore. – A winning streak that has reached nine matches has propelled the Seattle Pacific volleyball team into the AVCA top-25 rankings for the first time this season.

The Falcons – named the GNAC Team of the Week on Monday – have been knocking on the door of the top-25 through the first four weeks of the season receiving votes beginning with the preseason rankings. A dramatic five-set victory over No. 15 Central Washington at home last Saturday proved enough to push SPU over the top at No. 24 in the latest poll released on Monday.

SPU (11-2, 4-0 GNAC) makes its longest trip of the season to Alaska, while the league’s other ranked team No. 18 Central Washington (8-4, 2-2) plays host to Western Oregon (7-4, 1-2) Thursday and Saint Martin’s (8-4, 2-1) on Saturday.

This Week's Conference Slate - Sept. 28-30
  Thursday, Sept. 28 Saturday, Sept. 30
Host Opponent Time Opponent Time
RV UAA MSUB 7 p.m. #24 SPU 7 p.m.
UAF #24 SPU 7 p.m. MSUB 2 p.m.
#18 CWU WOU 7 p.m. SMU 1 p.m.
NNU SMU 7 p.m. WOU 1 p.m.
RV SFU Bye -- RV WWU 7 p.m.


This Week's Storylines

SPU HAS GNAC-LEADING TRIFECTA: Senior middle blocker Hannah Hair enters the week leading all of Division II in blocks per set with an average of 1.56. Hair has been the cornerstone defender in helping SPU lead Division II as a team with 2.69 blocks per set. The Falcons also rank 23rd nationally in hitting percentage at .244. Allison Wilks meanwhile leads the league in hitting percentage at .429, and Sarah Brachvogel is the conference’s leader with 3.37 kills per set.

Read More: It’s North To Alaska For No. 24 Falcons (SPU Preview)

SPU will look to keep its momentum going this week having not dropped a match since a Sept. 2 defeat against Biola on opening weekend. Saturday’s matchup against Alaska Anchorage (9-9, 1-2), which received votes in the poll for the third straight week, figures to be an enticing contest.

Read More: ‘Jackets, #24 Falcons Invade For GNAC Home Openers (UAA Preview)

KAUFMAN REACHES 1K KILLS FOR ‘CATS: There wasn’t much to separate CWU from SPU on Saturday, in a match that truly could have
fallen either way. The back-and-forth fifth set extended to a 16-16 tie, before the Falcons won consecutive points to claim the victory. Senior Ashley Kaufman reached the 1,000 kill milestone in the narrow defeat, upping her season average to 2.36 kills per set.

Read More: Kaufman Reaches 1,000 Career Kills (CWU Recap)

Defensively, CWU’s Emma Daoud-Hebert is close behind SPU’s Hair as she ranks third nationally with 1.43 blocks per set and ninth nationally with 63 total blocks. Tia Andaya was up to her usual standard of excellence against the Falcons, racking up a stat line of 46 assists, 15 digs and 10 total blocks to complete her second triple double of the season and the 14th of her career.

RED HOT RED LEAFS: SPU isn’t the only GNAC team with a notable win streak, as Simon Fraser takes a three-match stretch into its border-battle matchup against Western Washington on Saturday night at the West Gym. SFU cruised past Alaska and Alaska Anchorage in straight sets last week, thanks to the hot hand of GNAC Offensive Player of the Week Brooke Dexter. The lefty dialed up 25 total kills in the two matches, and now ranks eighth in the GNAC in hitting percentage at .291.

Read More: Veterans Shine As Red Leafs Sweep Seawolves (SFU Recap)

MCMAHON THE RECORD BREAKER: NNU libero Caroline McMahon broke the school record for career digs in the Nighthawks’ defeat
against Seattle Pacific last Thursday, as the fifth-year veteran enters this week with a total of 1,731 digs. The reigning GNAC Defensive Player of the Week is second in the conference with 4.88 digs per set this fall, which ranks her 43rd in Division II. After bouncing back with a four-set win over Montana State Billings last Saturday, the Nighthawks will host Saint Martin’s on Thursday and Western Oregon on Saturday this week.

GNAC Career Digs Leaders

GNAC Career Digs Leaders
Rank Player School Digs Career
1 Courtney Schneider Western Washington 2,695 2004-07
2 Samantha Hutchinson Western Washington 2,438 2011-14
3 Kyla Morgan Central Washington 2,342 2016-19
4 Anna Herold Seattle Pacific 2,316 2008-11
5 Alison McKay Simon Fraser 2,094 2013-16
6 Maggie Safranski Seattle 2,008 2002-05
7 Kaely Kight Central Washington 1,955 2011-14
8 Abby Phelps Western Washington 1,915 2015-18
9 Christie Colasurdo Western Oregon 1,838 2013-16
10 Brandie Vea Central Washington 1,774 2007-10
11 Caroline McMahon Northwest Nazarene 1,731 2019-23

VIKINGS ON THE RISE: Like Simon Fraser, Western Washington completed a sweep of the Alaska schools last week in its 2023 home debut. The Vikings took care of UAA in four sets last Thursday, before outlasting a gutsy effort by the Nanooks in a match that extended to five frames on Saturday. Saturday’s clash against Simon Fraser is one of two matches in the league this week that pits two teams who appeared in the latest AVCA rankings. Devyn Oestreich has been the Vikings’ top producer offensively with an average of 2.47 kills per set, while setter Adele Holland ranks sixth in the league with an average of 6.31 assists per set.

SAINTS TAKE ON ROAD CHALLENGE: Saint Martin’s got the best of Western Oregon 3-1 in its lone conference match last week, and will wrap up its four-match road stretch with a difficult trip to NNU on Thursday and No. 18 CWU on Saturday. Karla Soto has established herself as one of the top setters in the league, leading the GNAC and ranking No. 21 in Division II with 10.40 assists per set. Jennifer Soha has been one of the nation’s most efficient hitters this fall, ranking 24th in Division II with a hitting percentage of .384. The Saints have also benefitted from the all-around play of freshman Sirena Peredo, who is fourth in the GNAC in service aces (0.49), eighth in points (3.36), and 10th in both kills (2.27) and digs (3.00).

Read More: Another Peredo Double-Double Lifts Saints Over Wolves (SMU Recap)

FUNK THE D2 DIGS LEADER: Montana State Billings libero Christine Funk kept pace as the Division II leader in digs, upping her season total to 336 this season. Funk is fourth in Division II in digs per set with 6.00, a category in which she leads the GNAC by more than a full dig per set. Funk became the 11th player in program history to reach 1,000 career digs on Sept. 16, and she enters the week ninth in MSUB history with 1,089 digs. The Yellowjackets hit the road for a pair of matches at Alaska Anchorage Thursday and Alaska on Saturday.

Player to Watch

Devyn Oestreich – Western Washington

The only underclassman selected to the GNAC preseason all-conference team has been heating up, and was the catalyst to a pair of victories for the Vikings last week. Collecting double-doubles in both matches, Oestreich led the Vikings past Alaska Anchorage with team highs of 15 kills and 10 digs. She followed that with a 13-kill, 17-dig performance in the team’s five-set triumph over Alaska. Oestreich has reached double figures in kills five times this season including in each of her last three games, and has completed four double-doubles for WWU. During the Vikings’ current three-game winning streak Oestreich is averaging 15.3 kills and 15.7 kills per match.

Read More: Vikings Down Nanooks In Five-Set Thriller (WWU Recap)

National Rankings

The AVCA/TARAFLEX NCAA Division II rankings are released every Monday throughout the 2023 season.

Central Washington dropped three spots to No. 18 in the national rankings after a 1-1 week on the road. The Wildcats’ five-set loss to Seattle Pacific propelled the Falcons into the top-25 for the first time this season at No. 24. SPU worked its way up from the third-to-last team receiving votes in the preseason poll to cracking the list this week. Western Washington, Alaska Anchorage and Simon Fraser all received votes to make it three straight weeks with five conference teams represented in the national rankings.

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 --
Sept. 25 18. CWU 24. SPU RV WWU RV UAA RV SFU
GNAC Volleyball In The NCAA Statistical National Rankings

Through matches on Sept. 26.

Team Rankings (Top-30)
Blocks Per Set: 1. SPU, 2.69; 2. CWU, 2.66
Hitting Percentage: 23. SPU, .244
Kills Per Set: 29. SFU, 13.32
Win-Loss Percentage: 21. SPU, .833
Assists: 2. UAA, 734; 4. UAF, 702
Attacks Per Set: 18. MSUB, 38.50
Digs: 8. MSUB, 979; 12. UAA, 946; 20. UAF, 916
Kills: 2. UAA, 791; 3. UAF, 756
Service Aces: 16. UAA, 113
Attacks: 5. UAA, 2,231; 6. UAF, 2,181; 9. MSUB, 2,156
Blocks: 3. UAA, 128.0; 5. UAF, 125.5; 11. CWU, 117.0; 15. SPU, 115.5
Individual Rankings (Top-50)
Service Aces Per Set: 21. Karla Soto, SMU, 0.60; 39. Chloe Asciutto, WOU, 0.56; 44. Nicole Blue, UAA, 0.56
Assists Per Set: 21. Karla Soto, 10.40
Blocks Per Set: 1. Hannah Hair, SPU, 1.56; 3. Emma Daoud-Hebert, CWU, 1.43; 34. Tia Andaya, CWU, 1.16; 43. Emily Vossenkuhl, WWU, 1.12
Digs Per Set: 4. Christine Funk, MSUB, 6.00; 43. Caroline McMahon, NNU, 4.88; 44. Hannah Stires, CWU, 4.84
Hitting Percentage: 24. Jennifer Soha, SMU, .384
Service Aces: 4. Nicole Blue, UAA, 37; 34. Karla Soto, SMU, 26; 41. Rilee White, UAF, 25
Assists: 43. Karla Soto, SMU, 447
Attacks: 7. Nicole Blue, UAA, 624; 29. Karli Nielson, UAF, 510
Blocks: 5. Hannah Hair, SPU, 64; 9. Emma Daoud-Hebert, CWU, 63; 35. Leilani Elder, UAA, 52; 35. Paiten Langston, MSUB, 52; 38. Tia Andaya, CWU, 51; 38. Isabel Evans, UAA, 51
Digs: 1. Christine Funk, MSUB, 336; 30. Caroline McMahon, NNU, 234
Kills: 10. Nicole Blue, UAA, 218; 35. Karli Nielson, UAF, 186
Triple Doubles: 3. Tia Andaya, CWU, 2

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. 25 Brooke Dexter, Simon Fraser Caroline McMahon, Northwest Nazarene

Sept. 25 GNAC Volleyball Players of the Week

Offensive Player of the Week: Brooke Dexter, Simon Fraser

Helping Simon Fraser to a 2-0 week, Dexter stood out among the conference’s top offensive performers to earn her third career player of the week honor. Dexter’s 4.17 kills per set were second most among all GNAC players last week, and her hitting percentage of .404 was third highest among the league’s attackers. In the Red Leafs’ 3-0 win over Alaska, Dexter led all players with 14 kills. She followed with a near double-double in Saturday’s 3-0 win over Alaska Anchorage, totaling 11 kills and nine digs.

Also Nominated: Nicole Blue, UAA; Cynphany Henderson, UAF; Brooke Garman, CWU; Karla Soto, SMU; Sarah Brachvogel, SPU; Devyn Oestreich, WWU.

Defensive Player of the Week: Caroline McMahon, Northwest Nazarene

McMahon led all GNAC players with 6.71 digs per set last week, helping the Nighthawks pick up their second league victory of the year, 3-1, at Montana State Billings. McMahon tied her season high with 30 digs in the win over the Yellowjackets, two days after producing 17 digs in a three-set defeat at Seattle Pacific. The senior totaled 47 digs in her seven sets, while adding eight assists to help fuel the NNU offense. This is McMahon’s second career weekly honor, after she claimed defensive player of the week on Sept. 19, 2022.

Also Nominated: Isabel Evans, UAA; Kinley Erickson, UAF, Tia Andaya, CWU; Christine Funk, MSUB, Sirena Peredo, SMU; Kalyn Hartmann, SFU; Finnley Claeys, 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
Reddie-Tiger Invitational
Sept. 15-16 at Arkadelphia, Ark. (Ouachita Baptist & Henderson State, Hosts)
Alaska Anchorage: Leilani Elder, MB; Bethany Tuchardt, OH