VB Standings Beginning To Take Shape
SMU's Karla Soto (3) leads the conference with 10.16 assists per set.
SMU's Karla Soto (3) leads the conference with 10.16 assists per set.

Wednesday, October 4, 2023
by Evan O'Kelly

PORTLAND, Ore. – Six matches into the Great Northwest Athletic Conference volleyball season, No. 21 Seattle Pacific holds a firm grip on the top spot in the conference standings.

The Falcons (12-2, 6-0 GNAC) extended their winning streak to 11 matches dating back to Sept. 2 and are the lone undefeated team in conference play this season. Four straight victories by Western Washington (4-9, 4-1) sets up Thursday night’s clash with the Falcons at Brougham Pavilion (7 p.m. PDT) as a can’t-miss match between the league’s top-two teams.

No. 17 Central Washington (8-5, 4-2) is coming off a pair of victories last week and sits third in the league standings, with the next five teams all separated by a single game one-third of the way through the conference schedule.

This Week's Conference Slate - Oct. 5-7
  Thursday, Oct. 5 Saturday, Oct. 7
Host Opponent Time Opponent Time
#17 CWU Bye -- NNU 1 p.m.
MSUB RV SFU 7 p.m. WWU 2 p.m.
SMU UAA 7 p.m. UAF 1 p.m.
#21 SPU WWU 7 p.m. RV SFU 2 p.m.
WOU UAF 7 p.m. UAA 7 p.m.


This Week's Storylines

BROUGHAM IS THE PLACE TO BE: The league’s coaches picked Western Washington to finish second in the conference, but an 0-9 start to the season pulled the Vikings’ title contention hopes into question. A five-set win at Northwest Nazarene on Sept. 16 kicked off the team’s current four-game hot streak however, vaulting the Vikings up to the second spot in the standings. WWU is hitting its stride just in time for one of its toughest tests of the season on Thursday, as Seattle Pacific has won its only two home matches inside Brougham Pavilion this season. The Falcons kick off a stretch of three straight and five of the next seven in the Emerald City with Thursday’s clash against the 10-time conference champion Vikings.

Read More: Volleyball Back On The Road In GNAC Play (WWU Preview)

After hosting the Vikings Thursday, SPU will turn around to host Simon Fraser (8-5, 3-2) in a 2 p.m. (PDT) match on Saturday afternoon. The Red Leafs and Vikings will each also play at Montana State Billings this weekend.

Read More: She’s Tough To Beat On The Block (SPU Release)

NATIONAL BLOCKS LEADER HAIR TO BE FEATURED ON GNAC INSIDER: The Falcon roster is highly balanced offensively and defensively, but it’s senior Hannah Hair who has emerged as a legitimate GNAC Player of the Year candidate midway through the 2023 season. Hair enters the week as the NCAA Division II blocks per set leader (1.59) for the second week in a row, a big reason why the Falcons lead Division II as a team with 2.70 blocks per set. In addition to her defensive prowess, Hair ranks fifth in the league with a hitting percentage of .297 while averaging 1.65 kills per set. The Falcon standout joined host Gabbie Ewing on the latest episode of GNAC Insider, which will be released on Friday morning.

Listen Here: GNAC Insider podcast

Entering the week, Hair is No. 16 in GNAC history with 389 career total blocks, a figure that also ranks No. 7 in Seattle Pacific volleyball history.

GNAC Career Blocks Leaders
Rank Player School Blocks Career
1 Kayleigh Harper Western Washington 597 2015-16, 18-19
10 Kaitlin Quirk Central Washington 428 2012-15
11 Tessa May Simon Fraser 424 2015-18
12 Nikki Lowell Seattle Pacific 419 2010-13
13 Louise Free Northwest Nazarene 402 1999-2002
14 Becky Blees Western Oregon 396 2010-13
15 Eve Stephens Alaska Anchorage 395 2018-22
16 Hannah Hair Seattle Pacific 389 2020-23

2 OF GNAC’S BEST GO HEAD-TO-HEAD: Nicholson Pavilion in Ellensburg, Wash., will feature a defensive clinic on Saturday afternoon, as two of the conference’s best liberos in CWU’s Hannah Stires and NNU’s Caroline McMahon lead their teams into battle. Stires ranks second in the conference with 5.00 digs per set and McMahon is close behind at 4.68 digs per set, and both are among the top liberos in the conference’s history. McMahon, a fifth-year senior, enters the week 11th all-time in the GNAC with 1,731 career digs while Stires, a junior, is 65 digs away from cracking the conference’s top-30 as she holds a total of 1,306 digs. Stires also ranks No. 16 in GNAC history with 4.73 digs per set while McMahon is 30th at 4.22 digs per set.

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 1,759 2019-23

Coming off two wins last week, Central Washington gained momentum heading into a week with just one match on the calendar. The No. 17 Wildcats will play host to Northwest Nazarene (7-7, 3-3) on Saturday afternoon with a 1 p.m. (PDT) first serve. Like the Falcons, the Wildcats have emerged into one of Division II’s preeminent blocking teams, entering the week fourth in the national stat rankings with 2.64 blocks per set. Junior middle blocker Emma Daoud-Hebert, who led Division II in blocks per set last season, is right behind Hair at second with an average of 1.47. GNAC Preseason Player of the Year Tia Andaya ranks second in the league in assists per set (8.94), third in hitting percentage (.336), fourth in blocks per set (1.08) and eighth in service aces (0.40).

Read More: Wildcats Knock Down Saints In A Sweep (CWU Recap)

SEAWOLVES, NANOOKS JOCKEY FOR POSITION ON THE ROAD: Each having dropped three of their last four matches, travel partners Alaska Anchorage and Alaska Fairbanks will look to build momentum on the West Coast this weekend facing Western Oregon and Saint Martin’s. Both Alaska schools have a four-game home stand beginning next week as the conference calendar reaches the midway point. UAF plays at Western Oregon on Thursday night at 7 p.m. (PDT) and at Saint Martin’s on Saturday at 1 p.m. (PDT), while the Seawolves take on SMU Thursday night at 7 p.m. (PDT) and WOU Saturday night at 7 p.m. (PDT).

Read More: Seawolves Face Saints, Wolves On The Road (UAA Preview)

The Nanooks’ Elena Guc has been an efficient source of offense, entering the week ranked fourth in the GNAC in hitting percentage at .333. Karli Nielson meanwhile is fifth in the conference in kills per set at 2.99 and Rilee White is fifth in the league in service aces with 0.43. For the Seawolves, preseason all-conference selection Nicole Blue has been the offensive catalyst ranking second in the conference with 3.30 kills per set and second in service aces with 0.53 per set.

HORNBACK’S WOLVES, SOTO’S SAINTS PLAY HOST IN CRUCIAL MATCHES: Just as the Alaska schools will look to gain momentum heading into long home stands, the Wolves and Saints will look to hold serve on their home courts this weekend. Western Oregon (8-5, 2-3) is coming off an inspirational five-set triumph at Northwest Nazarene last Saturday, at match in which Madison Hornback completed a 14-kill, 14-dig double-double. The junior enters the week fourth in the GNAC in kills per set with 3.18.

Read More: WOU Wins Five-Setter at NNU (WOU Recap)

The Saints (8-6, 2-3) dropped a pair of matches last week, to stay even with both WOU and UAA in the standings. Senior setter Karla Soto continues to lead the conference and ranks 30th in Division II with 10.16 assists per set.

Player to Watch

Eva Person – Simon Fraser

A Swiss Army knife of sorts for the Red Leafs, sophomore Eva Person has contributed in a multitude of ways through the first 13 matches of the season. The setter has reached at least 22 assists in each of her last four matches, and has completed two of her four double-doubles on the season during that span. Person chipped in a season-high five total blocks in her most recent match against the Vikings after serving up a season-high five aces on Sept. 21 against Alaska. Person enters the week ranked fourth in the conference with 8.39 assists per set, while contributing a hitting percentage of .299, 2.41 digs per set and 14 total service aces this season. Look for Person to play a key role in her team’s matches at Montana State Billings (Thursday) and No. 21 Seattle Pacific (Saturday).

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
Oct. 2 17. CWU 21. SPU RV SFU -- --
GNAC Volleyball In The NCAA Statistical National Rankings

Through matches on Oct. 3.

Team Rankings (Top-30)
Blocks Per Set: 1. SPU, 2.70; 4. CWU, 2.64
Hitting Percentage: 27. CWU, .244
Win-Loss Percentage: 16. SPU, .857
Assists: 4. UAA, 815; 20. UAF, 741
Attacks Per Set: 29. MSUB, 37.95
Digs: 12. UAA, 1,061
Kills: 5. UAA, 874; 24. UAF, 796
Service Aces: 18. UAA, 130
Attacks: 8. UAA, 2,480; 20. UAF, 2,312
Blocks: 10. UAA, 138.0; 11. UAF, 137.5; 11. SPU, 137.5; 16. CWU, 132.0\
Individual Rankings (Top-50)
Service Aces Per Set: 6. Karla Soto, SMU, 0.65; 49. Nicole Blue, UAA, 0.53
Assists Per Set: 30. Karla Soto, 10.16
Blocks Per Set: 1. Hannah Hair, SPU, 1.59; 2. Emma Daoud-Hebert, CWU, 1.47; 27. Emily Vossenkuhl, WWU, 1.19
Digs Per Set: 4. Christine Funk, MSUB, 5.95; 31. Hannah Stires, CWU, 5.00
Hitting Percentage: 24. Jennifer Soha, SMU, .385
Service Aces: 4. Nicole Blue, UAA, 39; 20. Karla Soto, SMU, 32
Attacks: 4. Nicole Blue, UAA, 704
Blocks: 3. Hannah Hair, SPU, 78; 14. Emma Daoud-Hebert, CWU, 69; 50. Isabel Evans, UAA, 57
Digs: 4. Christine Funk, MSUB, 351; 44. Caroline McMahon, NNU, 262
Kills: 12. Nicole Blue, UAA, 241
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
Oct. 2 Scottie Ellsworth, Central Washington Hannah Hair, Seattle Pacific

Oct. 2 GNAC Volleyball Players of the Week

Offensive Player of the Week: Scottie Ellsworth, Central Washington

Ellsworth led all GNAC players in kills per set (4.50) last week, racking up a total of 27 to help the No. 18 Wildcats to a pair of conference victories. In a sweep of Western Oregon Thursday, Ellsworth led all players with 15 kills while hitting .343. She followed that with a dozen kills to go along with five block assists in the Wildcats’ sweep of Saint Martin’s on Saturday. This was Ellsworth’s first-career player of the week nod. Entering the week, Ellsworth ranks sixth in the GNAC in kills per set with 2.98, eighth in hitting percentage at .289, and eighth in points per set with 3.29.

“Scottie has been producing all year for us, and she is a big reason for a lot of our success,” said CWU head coach Mario Andaya. “She brings the offensive output we have needed, and she has been consistent all year. Last year she was doing some nice things, but dealt with an injury before our first match. This was her opportunity to come in and prove herself, and do the things we knew she was capable of doing.”

Also Nominated: Bethany Tuchardt, UAA; Rilee White, UAF; Karla Soto, SMU; Sarah Day, SPU; Jocelyn Sherman, SFU; Devyn Oestreich, WWU.

Defensive Player of the Week: Hannah Hair, Seattle Pacific

Hair keyed the Falcons to a pair of road victories last week, leading all GNAC players with 14 blocks and posting an average of 1.75 blocks per set. After chipping in with four block assists in SPU’s 3-1 win over Alaska on Thursday, Hair delivered five solo blocks to stifle the Alaska Anchorage attack in a 3-1 triumph on Saturday. Hair leads the GNAC with an average of 1.59 blocks per set, while ranking fifth in the league in hitting percentage at .297. Hair now has six-career player of the week awards – 4 defensive, 2 offensive – ranking her tied for seventh in GNAC history with WWU’s Marlayna Geary and NNU’s Madi Farrell. “Hannah has been a leader on our team for several years,” said SPU head coach Jason Rhine. “She always works really hard at practice and in matches, and is a high talent for attacking and blocking. She was reading the offense well last week. She is having some really great numbers, but to me the most important thing is that she’s a really good teammate and emotional leader for us. She sets the tone, especially defensively, of how to compete hard and slow down the other team.”

Also Nominated: Reilly Plumhoff, UAA; Kristina Head, UAF; Hannah Stires, CWU; Christine Funk, MSUB; Maddy Gooding, SMU; Macyn Unger, SFU; Bella MacLellan, WOU; 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
Reddie-Tiger Invitational
Sept. 15-16 at Arkadelphia, Ark. (Ouachita Baptist & Henderson State, Hosts)
Alaska Anchorage: Leilani Elder, MB; Bethany Tuchardt, OH
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