(MSUB Athletics release)
BILLINGS – Finally, after ten straight road matches, the Montana State University Billings volleyball returns home for a pair of contests this weekend. Alaska Anchorage comes to town Friday September 14 at 7 p.m. for the home opener, followed by Alaska Fairbanks on Saturday September 16 at 2 p.m. The weekend provides an opportunity to translate what has been a very successful non-conference schedule into tangible Great Northwest Athletic Conference wins.
“It will be great to play in front of a home crowd this weekend,” commented head coach Casey Williams. “I know the players are excited to play in front of family and friends. The Alaska schools are both very competitive. They are well coached and play hard but I think we do match up well with both teams.”
The Yellowjackets enter the weekend on a four match losing streak but have six wins already this season. In 2017, the ‘Jackets went 3-8 at Alterowitz Gymnasium and 4-3 at neutral sites.
LAST TIME OUT: The Yellowjackets lost a pair of Great Northwest Athletic Conferences matches over the weekend. Western Oregon shutout the ‘Jackets 3-0 on Thursday and Concordia University defeated MSUB 3-1 on Saturday, pushing the Yellowjackets’ losing streak to four. Despite the loss, Maddi Vigil had a strong performance for the team against Concordia. Vigil posted a double-double with 13 kills and 12 digs. She also held a .220 hitting percentage and made just four errors. The Yellowjackets have played ten straight road matches to begin the regular season. They have gone 6-4 since August 24 and surpassed last season’s road win mark already in their second month of competition.
Scouting the Seawolves (7-2, 1-1 GNAC)
Game Day: Friday, September 14 – 7 p.m.
2017 Record: 19-11, 14-6 GNAC, 10-4 Home, 8-4 Away
Head Coach: Chris Green (11th season)
Alaska Anchorage lost three starters from last season, but still features five proven veterans, including unanimous all-GNAC preseason selection Chrisalyn Johnson. Johnson averaged 3.05 kills and 2.47 digs per set last season. Another key returner is last season’s freshman of the year Casey Davenport. The sophomore setter took over as primary setter midway through the 2017 campaign and averaged 10.06 assists and 3.34 digs per set over 15 matches. She posted 45 assists and 16 digs in the first round of the NCAA tournament against No. 5 Western Washington.
The Seawolves earned their fifth straight trip to the NCAA Tournament in 2017 and tied for third in the GNAC regular season standings at 14-6. UAA posted wins over three ranked opponents and featured GNAC co-newcomer of the year Tara Melton at middle blocker.
Alaska Anchorage began their GNAC campaign with a 3-0 win over Northwest Nazarene on Thursday. Johnson and Vanessa Boyer paced the Seawolves balanced offense and UAA used a huge first-set comeback to secure a 26-24, 25-17, 25-15 sweep. Alaska Anchorage followed with a five set loss to Central Washington Saturday, falling 25-21, 25-20, 23-25, 25-22, 15-9. Boyer posted 15 kills and Melton had three block assists but the Seawolves still dropped their first home match of the season.
The Yellowjackets are 10-43 all-time against the Seawolves and 1-9 over their last ten head to head matchups. MSUB defeated Alaska Anchorage in their last meeting on November 16 by a 3-1 score.
Seawolves head coach Chris Green is 212-83 in his ten seasons at the helm of UAA. He was named the AVCA National Coach of the Year in 2016 and has won GNAC coach of the year four times.
Scouting the Nanooks (2-7, 0-2 GNAC)
Game Day: Saturday, September 15 – 2 p.m.
2017 Record: 12-17, 5-15 GNAC, 3-7 Home, 3-8 Away
Head Coach: Brian Scott (1st season)
Alaska Fairbanks features a young roster made up of zero seniors, three juniors, six sophomores, and four freshmen. Sophomore outside hitter Lahra Weber leads the Nanooks with 115 kills in 34 sets for a .188 hitting percentage. Weber was one of six players to appear in all 29 matches as a freshman and averaged 2.39 kills per set in 2017.
Junior middle blocker Kim Wong was named Preseason All-GNAC. So far this fall, Wong is hitting .185 with 1.68 kills per set. She also has four solo blocks and 25 block assists in 34 sets played. Makena Overbey ranks 35th in NCAA Division II in digs per set (5.43). The freshman defensive specialist has 163 total digs for the Nanooks.
The Nanooks volleyball team fell in GNAC action on Saturday night 3-1 to Northwest Nazarene at Alaska Airlines Court. Despite the loss, the team posted a respectable .213 hitting percentage with 59 kills and 20 errors. Redshirt sophomore outside hitter Tatum Upchurch registered her fourth double-double of the season, posting 19 digs and 10 kills. The team is currently riding a six match losing streak including four losses in the D2 West Region Volleyball Showcase. Their last victory came on August 25 against Barton College (3-0).
University of Alaska Fairbanks was picked to finish seventh in the 2018 GNAC Preseason Volleyball Coaches Poll. The Nanooks earned 49 points in the poll to rank seventh, three spots higher than they were predicted to finish in the same poll in 2017. Brian Scott is in his first season as head coach following successful stints as an assistant coach at NCAA Division I schools Weber State and Utah State.
The Yellowjackets are 29-27 all-time against the Nanooks. MSUB lost to Alaska in their last meeting on November 18, 2017 in five sets in Fairbanks. The Yellowjackets are 8-2 against Alaska in their last ten meetings.
FRESHMEN CONTRIBUTION: All three MSUB freshmen significant time on the floor this fall. Middle blocker Eavan Taylor was named GNAC offensive player of the week on August 21. Taylor posted 12 kills against University of Mary and a .600 hitting percentage against Western State Colorado. She was also named to the GNAC/PacWest Crossover all-tournament team for her efforts in San Francisco two weeks ago. The Texas native has played all 39 sets for MSUB and ranks first on the team in blocks with 43.0.
Riley Moore is also off to a solid start to her MSUB career. Moore has played 34 sets and holds a 2.26 kills per set average. In addition, Moore is third on the team in hitting percentage (.206) behind veterans Vigil and Miranda McConnell. She has 9.0 blocks and averages 2.41 points per set.
Skylar Reed has played a part in 17 sets for the Yellowjackets. She has one kill to her credit and 8 digs.
SETTING THE ‘CLARKE BAR: Last season sophomore setter Kylee Clarke split time on court and still managed to post respectable numbers for MSUB. In 2018, Clarke has been relied upon in the setter role almost exclusively and has made the most of the opportunity. In 37 sets of action, Clarke has 342 assists, an average of 9.24 assists per set. Clarke also has posted 11 block assists to help the team, along with 19 kills.
ACES HIGH: Alvarez and Bayli Monck are within the top 15 players for total service aces among NCAA Division II players for the third straight week. Monck is tied for 12th with 19 aces in 32 sets while Alvarez in 15th with 18 aces in 32 sets. The pair are ranked second and third respectively in the GNAC. As a team, Montana State Billings ranks 6th among Division II teams in total service aces with 70.
MSUB CONFERENCE STATS: The Yellowjackets rank fifth in the GNAC with a .181 hitting percentage. The team is also eighth in assists per set (10.90), seventh in kills per set (11.49), sixth in blocks per set (1.88), and 11th in digs (14.41 per set). Individually, Maddi Vigil ranks 17th in the GNAC in kills preset (2.67) while Kylee Clarke is fifth in assists per set (9.24). Eavan Taylor is in sixth position with 1.10 blocks per set, as is Alvarez in digs per set with 4.67.
TRIP TO THE ARCHIVES: The Yellowjackets six-match win streak to begin the season was impressive but not unheard of in the history of MSUB volleyball. The last time the Yellowjackets began a season 6-0 was 2011 and the longest win streak in program history is 12 in a row, achieved in 2006. The 2006 squad also had a win streak of 10 in a row within the same season.
TEAM SNAPSHOT: MSUB has nine returning letter winners from last season and three roster newcomers. The team finished 9-21 (5-15 GNAC, 9th) in 2017.
AROUND THE LEAGUE: Kayleigh Harper (Western Washington, MB, 6-2, Jr.) was named GNAC offensive player of the week. Harper finished with 22 kills and 12 blocks in the two GNAC victories and amassed an impressive .533 hitting percentage (22 kills, one error, 38 attempts). The Vikings have won seven matches in a row. Shayli Siegfreid (Northwest Nazarene, L, 5-5, Sr.) was named GNAC defensive player of the week. Siegfreid finished the weekend with 63 digs (averaging nine per set) and the Nighthawks split two matches in the state of Alaska.
Live video and statistics will be available for all MSUB home matches and all GNAC road contests throughout the 2017 season, through MSUB’s Stretch Internet portal. For tickets call the MSUB Athletics Department of purchase at the door on game night.