Trio Of GNAC Teams Appear In First NCAA Regional Rankings
Simon Fraser was among three GNAC teams to appear in the initial regional rankings released by the NCAA on Wednesday.
Simon Fraser was among three GNAC teams to appear in the initial regional rankings released by the NCAA on Wednesday.

Wednesday, November 1, 2023
by Evan O'Kelly

PORTLAND, Ore. – Three Great Northwest Athletic Conference volleyball teams appeared in the debut NCAA West Region rankings, released on Wednesday afternoon.

Conference-leading No. 18 Seattle Pacific, No. 21 Central Washington and Simon Fraser were the three representatives from the conference in the initial alphabetical list of the top-10 teams. The rankings come a day before one of the biggest matches of the season, with third-place Simon Fraser hosting the Falcons on Thursday night at the West Gym in Burnaby, B.C.

The Wildcats meanwhile are off Thursday before an important road match at Northwest Nazarene as they look to keep their title hopes alive for another week.

NCAA West Region Volleyball Rankings - Nov. 1, 2023
Team Conference In-Region Record Overall Record
Cal Poly Pomona CCAA 15-5 17-5
Cal St. Los Angeles CCAA 12-7 13-9
Cal St. San Bernardino CCAA 19-3 19-3
Central Washington GNAC 11-6 15-6
Chaminade PacWest 22-3 23-3
Point Loma PacWest 17-3 17-4
San Francisco State CCAA 13-8 14-8
Seattle Pacific GNAC 16-3 18-3
Simon Fraser GNAC 12-7 13-7
Sonoma State CCAA 14-7 14-7

NCAA Rankings/Tournament Information

The initial regional list (above) provided by the NCAA provides the top-10 teams in alphabetical order but does not rank the teams. Ensuing polls that rank the top-10 teams will be released on Nov. 8 and Nov. 15, with the final NCAA tournament selections (eight teams) being revealed on a live selection show on Monday, Nov. 20 at 7:30 p.m. EST/4:30 p.m. PST. The GNAC regular-season champion will receive an automatic berth into the NCAA West Region Championships, which will run Nov. 30-Dec. 3 at the site of the No. 1 overall seed.

This Week's Conference Slate - Nov. 2-4
  Thursday, Nov. 2 Saturday, Nov. 4
Host Opponent Time Opponent Time
UAF SMU 7 p.m. (ADT) WOU 2 p.m. (ADT)
UAA WOU 7 p.m. (ADT) SMU 7 p.m. (ADT)
NNU Bye -- #21 CWU 1 p.m. (MDT)
SFU #18 SPU 7 p.m. (PDT) MSUB 7 p.m. (PDT)
WWU MSUB 7 p.m. (PDT) #18 SPU 7 p.m. (PDT)


This Week's Storylines

FALCONS CIRCLING IN ON FIRST TITLE IN 12 YEARS: Seattle Pacific is tied for the second-most volleyball championships in GNAC history, but it has been a while since the team from the Emerald City claimed the league’s throne. SPU’s last title came in the fall of 2011 when it went 15-3, giving it four championships in the league’s first 11 years of existence. Since then the Falcons have finished in the upper half of the GNAC standings three times, including fourth place in 2022 – their best placing since their last title.

With a three-match lead and five matches to play, SPU would clinch at least a share of the regular-season title with a pair of victories this week. Two wins by the Falcons and one loss by both Central Washington and Simon Fraser would make it an outright title on Saturday. It will be no easy task for SPU this week, as they’ll face third-place Simon Fraser on Thursday night and fourth-place Western Washington on Saturday night on the road.

Two-time reigning GNAC Player of the Week Hannah Hair remained as the NCAA Division II leader in blocks with 1.75 per set, coming through with 19 more denials in SPU’s wins over Alaska Anchorage and Alaska last week. In elevating her mark over the last two weeks, Hair sits well clear of the GNAC single-season record of 1.66 blocks per set (Sabrina Wheelhouse, CWU, 2016) with six matches remaining in the regular season. Hair also lifted her career total blocks number to 442, bumping her up to seventh in the GNAC record books and third all-time in Falcon program history. Hair’s career blocks per set mark of 1.35 is fourth-best in GNAC history.

GNAC Career Blocks Leaders
Rank Player School Blocks Career
1 Kayleigh Harper Western Washington 597 2015-16, 18-19
2 Madi Farrell Northwest Nazarene 559 2014-17
3 Cammy Dranginis Northwest Nazarene 473 2006-09
4 Sabrina Wheelhouse Central Washington 472 2014-17
5 Erin Braun Alaska Anchorage 469 2013-16
6 Vera Pluharova Alaska Anchorage 448 2017-21
7 Hannah Hair Seattle Pacific 423 2020-23
8 Chloe Roetcisoender Western Washington 439 2019-22
9 Shaun Crespi Seattle Pacific 433 2015-18
10 Michaela Hall Western Washington 432 2015-18

Allison Wilks has been another key leader for SPU all season, leading the GNAC in hitting percentage at .430 while averaging 1.65 kills and 0.88 blocks per set. Sarah Brachvogel leads the team and ranks second in the GNAC with 3.31 kills per set, and Erin Smith contributes 2.22 kills per set.

WILDCATS HEATING UP: Central Washington (15-6, 9-4) enters the week having won three matches in a row and has a key Saturday contest at Northwest Nazarene (10-11, 6-7). The preseason favorites will be on the chase through the final five matches of the season, including their final two home contests next week against the Alaska schools at Nicholson Pavilion.

Emma Daoud-Hebert is close behind Hair among the Division II blocks leaders, entering this week ranked third with 1.40 blocks per set. The reigning NCAA statistical champion in that category is up to 352 career blocks slating her tied for 25th in GNAC history, and she also ranks second in GNAC history in blocks per set at 1.38. In addition to her blocking prowess, Daoud-Hebert ranks third in the GNAC this season with a hitting percentage of .332. Hannah Stires continues to rack up numbers on the defensive side of the ball, ranking second in the conference with 5.00 digs per set. Stires also cracked the top-25 in GNAC history in total digs last week, entering this week ranked tied for 23rd with 1,436 in her four seasons.

Read More: Kaufman Eclipses 1,000 Career Digs In Win Over Wolves (CWU Recap)

RED LEAFS EYEING BEST GNAC FINISH: While Simon Fraser’s chances of catching SPU at the top of the standings are slim, the Red Leafs are certainly on track to achieve their best-ever conference finish since joining the GNAC in 2010. SFU (13-7, 8-4) currently sits third in the standings and trails second-place Central Washington by just one match. Veteran head coach Gina Schmidt’s best-ever finish was third place during the 2016 campaign, as she has her squad poised to meet or exceed their preseason coaches poll ranking of fourth place.

The Red Leafs will have a prime opportunity to take a major stride in the standings this week, hosting the Falcons at 7 p.m. (PDT) on Thursday night at the West Gym. SFU will also host Montana State Billings (3-20, 1-12) on Saturday evening. SPU got the best of SFU 3-0 when the teams met on Oct. 7 in Seattle.

Read More: Red Leafs Take 5-Set Thriller Over Vikings (SFU Recap)

Jocelyn Sherman has been the top statistical attacker for SFU this fall, averaging 3.07 kills per set to rank fifth in the conference. Two-time GNAC Player of the Week Brooke Dexter is close behind with 2.53 kills per set, while Sophie Lachapelle ranks fifth in the GNAC with a hitting percentage of .290. Libero Macyn Unger is fourth in the GNAC with 4.30 digs per set, and setter Eva Person ranks third in the league with 8.59 assists per set.

SAINTS BUILDING ON BEST SEASON YET: Saint Martin’s (14-8, 7-5) has already achieved its best record in program history with six matches left in the regular season. SMU enters a key road trip to Alaska having won six of its last eight matches, and sits in a tie for fourth place with Western Washington in the GNAC standings.

Read More: Saints Clinch Winningest Season In Program History (SMU Recap)

Senior Karla Soto leads the GNAC and ranks 32nd in Division II volleyball in assists per set with 10.27, and she ranks fourth nationally with 0.64 service aces per set. Jennifer Soha is the second-leading hitter in the GNAC at .378 while Emily Garten ranks fourth in the conference in kills per set with 3.27. Abbey Halstead ranks fifth in the GNAC with 3.68 digs per set, and standout freshman Sirena Peredo is seventh in the conference with 3.32 points per set.

VIKINGS LOOK TO FINISH STRONG: With four of its final six matches in the friendly confines of Carver Gym, Western Washington will look to return to the form it was in with five straight wins towards the beginning of the GNAC schedule. The Vikings (7-13, 7-5) are the lone GNAC team to solve Seattle Pacific this season, and will look for a repeat of their sweep on Oct. 5 in Seattle. Western Washington also hosts Montana State Billings this week, sitting in a tie for fourth place with Saint Martin’s.

Read More: Vikings Host Unity Night Thursday (WWU Preview)

Emily Vossenkuhl has kept her name among NCAA blocking leaders, ranking 20th in Division II with 1.18 blocks per set. Devyn Oestreich is 10th in the GNAC with 2.54 kills per set, while setter Adele Holland ranks fifth in the conference with 6.76 assists per set.

MCMAHON DIGS HER WAY UP: Northwest Nazarene senior libero Caroline McMahon climbed to No. 9 on the GNAC all-time digs list, entering the week with 1,882 and needing 27 more to rise to eighth place. McMahon’s 4.64 digs per set rank her third in the conference this season, and she is coming off a season-high 38 digs in last week’s five-set match at Western Oregon. The Nighthawks (10-11, 6-7) have three straight home matches including Saturday’s contest against Central Washington, before closing the 2023 season on the road.

Feature: McMahon Overcomes Health Scare To Lead Nighthawks (NNU Story)

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 Caroline McMahon Northwest Nazarene 1,882 2019-23
10 Christie Colasurdo Western Oregon 1,838 2013-16

NANOOKS LOOK TO START NEW STREAK: Alaska had a four-match winning streak snapped by the first-place Falcons last week, and will look to get back on track at the Patty Center hosting Saint Martin’s and Western Oregon this weekend. After dropping its first four conference matches of the season, Alaska has won seven of its last 10 to pull its record to 13-14 overall and 6-7 in conference play. A win over SMU Thursday could pull the Nanooks back into the upper half of the GNAC standings, where they finished in three straight seasons from 2018-21. Preseason all-conference selection Karli Nielson has lived up to the expectations, ranking sixth in the GNAC with 2.99 kills per set. Kristina Head is seventh in the league in hitting percentage at .282 and eighth in blocks with 0.99, while Josie Jansen has burst onto the scene and ranks seventh in the GNAC with 1.01 blocks per set.

Read More: Nanooks Host SMU And WOU For Final Home Week (UAF Preview)

HORNBACK’S BIG WEEK: Western Oregon (8-12, 2-10) pushed its offense through Madison Hornback in a big way last week, with the junior racking up 50 kills in her two matches on her way to GNAC Player of the Week for the second time this fall. Hornback had 27 kills and 24 digs in the Wolves’ five-set match against Northwest Nazarene last Thursday, marking the highest single-match kill total by a GNAC player this season and the first time a GNAC player achieved a 20-20 match this season. Hornback now leads the conference in kills per set with 3.50.

Read More: Hornback Sets 2 Conference-Best Marks, Named Player Of The Week (WOU Release)

FUNK CLIMBS TO THIRD ON MSUB CHART: Montana State Billings libero Christine Funk rose to third in Yellowjacket single-season history with 458 digs on the 2023 season. The junior leads the conference and ranks 14th nationally with 5.33 digs per set.

MSUB Volleyball - Single-Season Digs Leaders
Rank Player Digs Season
1 Izela Alvarez 622 2017
2 Erin Compton 577 2012
3 Christine Funk 458 2023
4 Diane Vargo 440 1998
5 Nicole Kruse 439 2006
6 Brandee Sayles 437 1997
  Gina Langer 437 1998
  Olivia Munro 437 2004
9 Diane Vargo 430 1997
10 Devon Crotteau 425 2007

Player to Watch

Isabel Evans – Alaska Anchorage

A steady presence at the net this season for the Seawolves, Evans ranks fifth in the GNAC with 1.04 blocks per set. The junior from Corvallis, Mont., has had at least four total blocks in each of her last eight matches, including seven on Oct. 19 against Simon Fraser which was one off her season high. Evans is coming off two solo blocks in her most recent match in her home state at MSUB. The other time this season she had a pair of solo blocks in a match was against Thursday’s opponent in Western Oregon. Overall on the season Evans has accumulated 94.0 total blocks and is well on pace to surpass last year’s figure of 101.0 total blocks.

Read More: Seawolves Back Home To Face Wolves, Saints (UAA Preview)



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

A head-to-head victory for the Falcons lifted them above the Wildcats in the Division II rankings for the first time this season, as SPU climbed to its highest spot of the year at No. 19. CWU meanwhile slipped two spots to No. 20, and has maintained a spot in the top-25 since the first regular-season rankings of the year on Sept. 4. Simon Fraser was among teams receiving votes for the second 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 --
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 -- --
Oct. 23 19. SPU 20. CWU RV SFU  -- --
Oct. 30 18. SPU 21. CWU -- -- --
GNAC Volleyball In The NCAA Statistical National Rankings

Through matches on Oct. 31.

Team Rankings (Top-30)
Aces Per Set: 22. SMU, 2.14
Blocks Per Set: 1. SPU, 2.81; 4. CWU, 2.64
Win-Loss Percentage: 18. SPU, .857
Opp. Hitting Percentage: 26. SPU, .141
Assists: 29. UAA, 1,140
Service Aces: 29. UAF, 189
Total Blocks: 8. UAA, 218.5; 9. SPU, 216.5; 13. UAF, 214.5; 29. CWU, 200.5
Individual Rankings (Top-50)
Service Aces Per Set: 4. Karla Soto, SMU, 0.64
Assists Per Set: 32. Karla Soto, SMU, 10.27
Blocks Per Set: 1. Hannah Hair, SPU, 1.75; 3. Emma Daoud-Hebert, CWU, 1.40; 20. Emily Vossenkuhl, WWU, 1.18; 42. Tia Andaya, CWU, 1.11
Digs Per Set: 14. Christine Funk, MSUB, 5.33; 28. Hannah Stires, CWU, 5.00
Hitting Pct.: 24. Jennifer Soha, SMU, .378
Service Aces: 10. Nicole Blue, UAA, 51; 15. Karla Soto, 50
Attacks: 20. Nicole Blue, UAA, 994
Blocks: 2. Hannah Hair, SPU, 131; 19. Emma Daoud-Hebert, CWU, 102; 36. Isabel Evans, UAA, 94
Digs: 21. Christine Funk, MSUB, 458
Kills: 30. Nicole Blue, UAA, 339
Triple Doubles: 6. 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. 23 Karli Nielson, Alaska Hannah Hair, Seattle Pacific
Oct. 30 Madison Hornback, Western Oregon Hannah Hair, Seattle Pacific

Oct. 30 GNAC Volleyball Players of the Week

Offensive Player of the Week – Madison Hornback, Western Oregon

Second-career Player of the Week, second this season

Hornback got it done on both sides of the ball, completing a 27-kill, 24-dig double-double in the match against the Nighthawks and a 23-kill, 17-dig double-double against the Wildcats. Thursday’s performance marked the first time in 2023 that a GNAC player reached 20 kills and 20 digs in a match. Hornback’s 6.25 kills per set were far and away the most by any GNAC player last week, and her 5.12 digs per set were third-most by any player in the conference. “Shoutout to her teammates for putting her into this position,” said Nahale-a. “It’s incredible what can happen when these women put their mind to it and put in the work. It is super cool to be her coach and to witness her make the right decisions.”

Also Nominated: Nicole Blue, UAA; Karli Nielson, UAF; Ellie Marble, CWU; Hailey Cheney, NNU; Emily Garten, SMU; Sarah Brachvogel, SPU; Jocelyn Sherman, SFU; Devyn Oestreich, WWU.

Defensive Player of the Week – Hannah Hair, Seattle Pacific

Eighth-career Player of the Week, third this season

Hair once again could not be stopped as she propelled the first-place Falcons to two more victories and a GNAC record of 12-1. Hair led all GNAC players with 19 blocks in SPU’s two wins, and remained as the NCAA Division II leader in blocks per set with 1.73. Hair started her week with 10 blocks in the Falcons’ four-set win over Alaska Anchorage, marking the third time this season she reached double figures in blocks in a single match. She narrowly missed her first double-double of the year in her team’s four-set win over Alaska on Saturday, matching her season high with 11 kills and finishing with nine blocks. In addition to her defensive performance, Hair’s hitting percentage of .484 was the highest by any GNAC player last week.

Also Nominated: Isabel Evans, UAA; Josie Jansen, UAF; Morgan Halady, CWU; Caroline McMahon, NNU; Emmy Hansen, SMU; 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
Reddie-Tiger Invitational
Sept. 15-16 at Arkadelphia, Ark. (Ouachita Baptist & Henderson State, Hosts)
Alaska Anchorage: Leilani Elder, MB; Bethany Tuchardt, OH