Ranked Battle At Nicholson Kicks Off Big VB Week
WWU's Emily Vossenkuhl ranks third in the GNAC with 1.18 blocks per set.
WWU's Emily Vossenkuhl ranks third in the GNAC with 1.18 blocks per set.

Wednesday, October 18, 2023
by Evan O'Kelly

PORTLAND, Ore. – A meeting of the Great Northwest Athletic Conference’s two ranked volleyball teams on Thursday night kicks off a big week as conference play makes the turn into the second half of the 2023 season.

No. 18 Central Washington plays host to No. 22 Seattle Pacific in a battle of the top two teams in the GNAC standings. The rematch of the Sept. 23 five-set affair in Seattle, which went to the Falcons, figures to have major implications in the standings. SPU (14-3, 8-1 GNAC) enters the week with a two-match lead in first place, but CWU (12-5, 6-3) is among three teams tied for second who are gunning for the top spot.

Simon Fraser (11-6, 6-3) which received votes in the latest AVCA/TARAFLEX coaches poll, and Western Washington (6-11, 6-3) both play at Alaska Anchorage and Alaska as they work to stay towards the top of the conference standings.

This Week's Conference Slate - Oct. 19-21
  Thursday, Oct. 19 Saturday, Oct. 21
Host Opponent Time Opponent Time
UAA RV SFU 7 p.m. (ADT) WWU 2 p.m. (ADT)
UAF WWU 7 p.m. (ADT) RV SFU 2 p.m. (ADT)
#18 CWU #22 SPU 7 p.m. (PDT) MSUB 2 p.m. (PDT)
NNU MSUB 7 p.m. (MDT) #22 SPU 1 p.m. (MDT)
SMU Bye -- WOU 5 p.m. (PDT)


This Week's Storylines

FALCONS TO BE TESTED ON THE ROAD: SPU faces a mighty road test this week, playing at 1 p.m. (MDT) on Saturday at Northwest Nazarene (8-9, 4-5) after Thursday’s marquee matchup with the Wildcats. The Falcons are in pursuit of their first GNAC title since 2011 and are coming off a sweep of Montana State Billings in their lone match last week at home.

Read More: Big Road Trip To Start 2nd Half Of GNAC (SPU Preview)

Senior middle blocker Hannah Hair continues to lead NCAA Division II volleyball in blocks per set with 1.59, and has climbed one spot on the GNAC all-time charts to No. 13 with 403 career total blocks. Hair enters the week at No. 7 on the SPU all-time charts, while teammate Allison Wilks leads the conference in hitting percentage at .426 and Sarah Brachvogel leads the league in kills per set with 3.33.

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 Hannah Hair Seattle Pacific 403 2020-23

WILDCATS WITH BIG OPPORTUNITY AT HOME: Just as the Falcons will view Thursday’s match as a chance to stay atop the GNAC standings, host Central Washington will try to capitalize on an opportunity to move into first place. CWU is coming off a three-set win over UAA last Thursday and a four-set loss at Alaska last Saturday, and will host Montana State Billings this Saturday after Thursday’s key matchup.

Read More: #18 Wildcats Ready For Home Bouts Against #22 Falcons, Yellowjackets (CWU Preview)

Reigning GNAC Offensive Player of the Week Emma Daoud-Hebert remains at No. 2 in all of Division II volleyball with 1.48 blocks per set, trailing only SPU’s Hair in the category. The senior moved into the top-30 in GNAC history last week, upping her career total blocks figure to 336, and she also ranks third in the GNAC in hitting percentage this season at .310. Sophomore standout Scottie Ellsworth has continued her strong play, ranking seventh in the GNAC in kills per set with 2.90 and ninth in hitting percentage at .264, while senior setter Tia Andaya ranks second in the conference with 9.33 assists per set.

NANOOKS INSPIRED AHEAD OF BIG HOME WEEKEND: The Alaska Nanooks are hoping that last Saturday’s win over then-No. 16 CWU will spark some momentum as they prepare to host two of the league’s top teams in WWU and SFU. The Nanooks are within two wins of moving into the upper half of the GNAC standings and have the advantage of finishing up a four-match home stand in the friendly confines of the Patty Center this week.

Preseason all-conference selection Karli Nielson has lived up to the hype thus far, entering the week ranked fifth in the GNAC with an average of 2.93 kills per set. Libero Grace Steurer ranks seventh in the conference with 3.61 digs per set, and Ainsley Smith is providing her team with 6.06 assists per set.

Read More: Nanooks Topple #16 CWU In 4 Sets (UAF Recap)

DEXTER, RED LEAFS TRENDING UPWARDS: Simon Fraser is coming off back-to-back sweeps last week to keep pace in a three-way tie for second in the conference standings. All nine of SFU’s conference matches this season have been decided in straight sets, including its 3-0 triumph over Thursday opponent Alaska Anchorage on Sept. 23. Helping SFU win three of its last four matches, junior Brooke Dexter earned her second GNAC Offensive Player of the Week award of the season as her attack game has continued to trend upwards. Dexter totaled 22 kills last week and narrowly missed her first double-double of the year with an 11-kill, nine-dig performance in last Saturday’s sweep of Saint Martin’s. Kalyn Hartmann has led the defensive effort for the Red Leafs, with her six blocks in the team’s win Saturday being her second-highest total of the season. The fifth-year senior ranks fifth in the GNAC with 1.04 blocks per set.

Read More: Hartmann, Dexter Lead Red Leafs Past Wolves (SFU Recap)

VIKINGS READY FOR FINAL FRONTIER: Western Washington shook off back-to-back losses with a 3-1 triumph in its most recent match against Western Oregon, and will look to carry that momentum into Thursday’s contest against the feisty Nanooks. The final stretch of the 2023 schedule is favorable for WWU after this week’s trip, with five of the Vikings’ final seven matches set to be played in Carver Gym.

Read More: Vikings Rebound With 3-1 Win Over WOU (WWU Recap)

Redshirt freshman Emily Vossenkuhl has put her name onto the map, entering the week ranked third in the GNAC with 1.18 blocks per set, including 12 total in last week’s home matches. Preseason all-conference selection Devyn Oestreich leads the team with 2.52 kills per set while ranking 12th in the GNAC with 3.09 digs per set, and Adele Holland sits fifth in the conference with 7.09 assists per set.

SEAWOLVES UP FOR THE CHALLENGE: Alaska Anchorage (12-12, 4-5) shook off a loss to then-No. 16 CWU with a four-set win over Northwest Nazarene on Saturday in front of the second-largest home crowd in program history to nudge its season record back to .500. The Seawolves will look to close their current four-match home stand strong while facing a pair of teams tied for second in the standings in SFU and WWU – each of whom they lost to on the road in the first half of the conference slate.

Read More: Near-Record Crowd Sees Seawolves Solve Nighthawks (UAA Recap)

Nicole Blue continues to stand out as one of the league’s top players, ranking third with 3.19 kills per set and second with 0.48 service aces per set. Reilly Plumhoff and Isabel Evans have spurred the Seawolves defensively, with the former ranking eighth in the GNAC with 3.30 digs per set and the latter ranking 10th in the conference with 0.97 blocks per set.

Read More: Leafs, Vikings Come North To Start GNAC Second Half (UAA Preview)

HISTORIC W FOR THE SAINTS: For the first time since 1998, Saint Martin’s toppled Western Washington to snap a 46-match losing streak to the Vikings last Thursday. SMU (12-7, 5-4) emerged triumphant in the five-set affair and remained in the upper-half of the GNAC standings despite a three-set loss to Simon Fraser on Saturday. The Saints will look to repeat their success against WOU they had in a 3-1 win on Sept. 23, as the Wolves are their lone opponent this week on Saturday at Marcus Pavilion.

Believers In Bellingham: Saints Defeat WWU For First Time In DII Era (SMU Recap)

Karla Soto remains the GNAC leader in assists with 10.22 per set, while Emily Garten has sprung up to No. 2 in the league in kills per set with 3.21. Jennifer Soha ranks second in the conference and 27th nationally in hitting percentage at .375 and Maddy Gooding is close behind ranking fifth in the GNAC at .304.

MCMAHON DIGS INTO TOP-10 LIST: Northwest Nazarene libero Caroline McMahon cracked the GNAC all-time top-10 list in digs last week, upping her five-year total to 1,803. McMahon enters the week ranked third in the conference with 4.50 digs per set as the Nighthawks (8-9, 4-5) look to break into the top half of the standings with home matches against Montana State Billings (Thursday) and No. 22 Seattle Pacific (Saturday). In addition to McMahon’s success, setter Gabi Moore ranks fourth in the GNAC with 8.16 assists per set and Maren Dent is ninth in the conference with 2.73 kills 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 Caroline McMahon Northwest Nazarene 1,803 2019-23

FUNK CLIMBING MSUB DIGS CHARTS: Montana State Billings libero Christine Funk is four digs away from cracking into the Yellowjackets’ single-season top-10 in digs, as she enters the week with 416 digs which is the seventh-highest total in Division II volleyball. In her junior season, Funk has already climbed to No. 6 on the MSUB career digs chart with 1,169. The Yellowjackets’ all-time leader in digs is Gina Langer at 1,530, while the school single-season record was set by Izela Alvarez in 2017 at the mark of 622.

MSUB Volleyball - Single-Season Digs Leaders
Rank Player Digs Season
1 Izela Alvarez 622 2017
2 Erin Compton 577 2012
3 Diane Vargo 440 1998
4 Nicole Kruse 439 2006
5 Brandee Sayles 437 1997
  Gina Langer 437 1998
  Olivia Munro 437 2004
8 Diane Vargo 430 1997
9 Devon Crotteau 425 2007
10 Kylee Cornelio 420 2016
  Haley Wells 420 2014
12 Christine Funk 416 2023

Player to Watch

Josie Jansen – Alaska

The Nanooks don’t upset the Wildcats without the performance of the junior middle blocker, who has assumed a crucial role in her first season with the Nanooks. Jansen came through with 11 blocks last week, and contributed on the offensive end with a season-high 10 kills in the win over Central Washington. Jansen’s block total was the highest she has posted in a conference weekend thus far in 2023, and overall she posted a hitting percentage of .452 in her team’s two matches.

“Josie transferred in the spring, and she has made an impact in our gym from the beginning,” Nanook head coach Brian Scott said on the Mt. Hood Community College transfer. “I would highlight what Josie did against Central. Part of our game plan was to utilize our middles more efficiently than we have been, and she stepped into a big role and made a big impact in that game. She is a long individual who puts up a big block. We hope that a nice win like that can help us create some excitement and build momentum going into some important matches against two tough opponents this week. We are hoping we can get the same play not only out of Josie, but out of everyone as we face Western Washington and Simon Fraser.”

National Rankings

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

Central Washington fell two spots in the latest coaches poll after suffering a 3-1 loss at Alaska last week, while Seattle Pacific remained at No. 22 with its sweep of Montana State Billings in its lone action. Simon Fraser reappeared among the teams receiving votes, as the Red Leafs have dipped in and out of that list throughout the season.

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 -- --
Oct. 9 16. CWU 22. SPU -- -- --
Oct. 16 18. CWU 22. SPU RV SFU -- --
GNAC Volleyball In The NCAA Statistical National Rankings

Through matches on Oct. 17.

Team Rankings (Top-30)
Aces Per Set: 18. SMU, 2.21
Blocks Per Set: 2. SPU, 2.68; 5. CWU, 2.63
Hitting Percentage: 30. CWU, .242
Win-Loss Percentage: 26. SPU, .824
Opp. Hitting Percentage: 26. SPU, .140
Assists: 12. UAA, 981; 25: UAF, 938
Attacks Per Set: 30. SFU, 37.66
Digs: 26. UAA, 1,312
Kills: 14. UAA, 1,052
Service Aces: 25. UAA, 162
Total Attacks: 12. UAA, 3,036
Total Blocks: 5. UAF, 180.5; 7. UAA, 180.0
Individual Rankings (Top-50)
Service Aces Per Set: 4. Karla Soto, SMU, 0.69
Assists Per Set: 29. Karla Soto, SMU, 10.22
Blocks Per Set: 1. Hannah Hair, SPU, 1.59; 2. Emma Daoud-Hebert, CWU, 1.48; 25. Emily Vossenkuhl, WWU, 1.18
Digs Per Set: 6. Christine Funk, MSUB, 5.70; 23. Hannah Stires, CWU, 5.10
Hitting Pct.: 27. Jennifer Soha, SMU, .375
Service Aces: 6. Nicole Blue, UAA, 46; 12. Karla Soto, SMU, 43
Assists: 46. Karla Soto, SMU, 685
Attacks: 15. Nicole Blue, UAA, 843
Blocks: 8. Hannah Hair, SPU, 92; 12. Emma Daoud-Hebert, CWU, 86; 46. Leilani Elder, UAA, 74; 46. Isabel Evans, UAA, 74; Josie Jansen, UAF, 74
Digs: 7. Christine Funk, MSUB, 416
Kills: 26. Nicole Blue, UAA, 284
Triple Doubles: 4. 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. 9 Karla Soto, Saint Martin's Sirena Peredo, Saint Martin's
Oct. 16 Brooke Dexter, Simon Fraser Emma Daoud-Hebert, Central Washington

Oct. 16 GNAC Volleyball Players of the Week

Offensive Player of the Week – Brooke Dexter, Simon Fraser

Fourth-career player of the week award, second of 2023.

Simon Fraser (11-6, 6-3) made it an undefeated weekend at home thanks in large part to Dexter’s performance offensively. Dexter led all GNAC players with an average of 3.67 kills per set, which helped SFU move into a three-way tie for second place in the GNAC standings. Dexter kicked off her big week with 11 kills in the Red Leafs’ sweep of Western Oregon on Thursday, adding six digs and three total blocks. She followed that up with 11 more kills in Saturday’s sweep of surging Saint Martin’s while adding nine digs, four service aces and a block assist. “She has been a big part of our offense all season and throughout her career here,” said SFU head coach Gina Schmidt. “She carries a big load for our team. In this weekend’s games it was a whole team effort, and Brooke did what we expect her to do. She does a great job of consistently showing up every night. A lot of teams key on her as one of our main hitters, and she always has a tough job as other teams prepare for her.”

Dexter single-handedly put the finishing touches on Saturday’s sweep, starting off a match-ending 8-0 run with her 10th kill of the night. That put the ball in her hands to serve, and she ended the match on a string of seven consecutive serves including three service aces. “Defensively, from the serving line – she finds ways to contribute in a lot of ways other than just her offense,” said Schmidt. “As a team in general when we have a lot of others playing well and contributing offensively, that helps as well. Teams can’t just key on her because we have a lot of other players who will hurt them.”

Also Nominated: Leilani Elder, UAA; Ella Bines, UAF; Ellie Marble, CWU; Emily Garten, SMU; Gabby Kepley, WWU.

Defensive Player of the Week – Emma Daoud-Hebert, Central Washington

Fourth-career player of the week award, first of 2023.

The NCAA’s second-leading blocker (1.48 bps) was up to her usual standard of play last week, racking up 11 total blocks in the Wildcats’ two matches. Daoud-Hebert racked up six total blocks in Thursday’s 3-1 win at Alaska Anchorage, and was a major contributor offensively with eight kills in the match. On Saturday against Alaska, Daoud-Hebert made it five straight matches with at least five total blocks as she was once again a force at the net. In addition to her defensive efforts, Daoud-Hebert’s hitting percentage of .357 was sixth-best among GNAC players last week. “Emma has been there for us in a lot of ways her whole career,” said CWU head coach Mario Andaya. “Her mindset is always about what she can do for the team right now. Blocking wise she has shown that she hasn’t lost a step since having major surgery last spring. It is an art to be able to block at this level, and she continues to work on her craft while helping our team in lot of ways. Her work ethic has made our team a lot better and we are blessed to have her.”

Also Nominated: Madison Galloway, UAA; Cynphany Henderson, UAF; Abbey Halstead, SMU; Kalyn Hartmann, 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
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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