SPU overcomes slow start, beats Volleyball 3-1

Photo by Todd Paris. Keri Knight had 11 kills in Saturday’s loss at SPU.

Jamie Foland

Seattle Pacific was able to overcome a sluggish start and got 12 or more kills from three players en route to a 3-1 Great Northwest Athletic Conference volleyball win against Alaska on Saturday afternoon at Brougham Pavilion.

The Falcons improved to 8-10 on the year and 5-4 in conference play after winning the match by scores of 27-25, 23-25, 25-12 and 25-10 while the Nanooks fell for the second straight time to fall to 3-12 overall and 1-8 in the GNAC.

“The first two sets were really hard fought and Keri and Sam were huge in the first two sets in terms of carrying us offensively,” head coach Phil Shoemaker said. “I thought we battled very hard, thought we served and passed well. After the first two sets, we were even with them and went into the locker room and we knew we needed to make some adjustments to take the load off Keri and Sam. We wanted to get our middles and right side more involved and we knew SPU was going to respond with adjustment of their own and theirs turned out better than ours.”

Nikki Lowell led SPU with a team-best 15 kills and a solid .565 (15-2-23) hitting percentage to go with seven block assists. Cailin Fellows had 14 terminations and nine digs whileMadi Cavell added 12 kills and seven digs. Jessica Miller also contributed nine kills, a .310 (9-0-29) hitting clip and a match-high eight block assists and Shelby Swanson finished with a match-best 48 assists and 15 digs.

“Their middles were pretty much unstoppable tonight,” Shoemaker said. “We didn’t have a good blocking game against them and they had a 6-3 right side that caused us problems. They basically got a better performance the last two sets than we did.”

Alaska was led by freshman outside hitter Sam Harthun (Oregon City, Ore.), who produced a match-high 17 kills, and junior outside hitter Keri Knight (Arvada, Colo.), who had 11 kills and an ace. Freshman setter Katlyn Mataya (Mount Vernon, Wash.) tallied 36 assists and seven digs while senior libero Allison Oddy had a team-best 17 digs.

Seattle Pacific hit .289 (58-15-149) as a team, while holding Alaska to .123 (43-25-146) hitting. SPU made only 15 errors to Alaska’s 25 and dominated on the block, outscoring the Nanooks 11-2. The Falcons also bested the ‘Nooks 7-3 on service aces, 52-39 on assists and 71-65 in digs.

Alaska jumped all over the hosts in the first set. Leading 8-6, four kills and an ace put the Nanooks up 13-6. Later, the ‘Nooks stretched the advantage to nine at 19-10. A bad set by Mataya sparked a 4-0 run by SPU, closing the gap to 19-14. Trailing 20-15, the Falcons scored seven of nine, five by way of kills, to knot it up at 22. Teams traded points for six points and with the set and with it tied at 25 apiece, a pair of Fellows kills ended the frame, 27-25.

Leading 12-11 in the second, SPU scored five straight to hold a 17-11 advantage. Seven of the set’s next nine points went to Alaska, by way of four kills, two SPU errors and an ace to trim the deficit to 19-18. With SPU up 21-18, two Fellows errors and a pair of Harthun kills gave the Nanooks a 22-21 lead. Tied at 23, Fellows served into the net and Harthun answered that with a kill to give the ‘Nooks the 25-23 set victory and tie the match at 1-1.

SPU led the third 6-4, but it opened up the frame with an 8-1 run to hold a 14-5 advantage. The Falcons’ block came alive as the Nanooks attack never came closer than seven at 17-10 and the hosts won the third 25-12 to regain the match lead at 2-1.

The Nanooks led 4-2 in the fourth, but four errors allowed SPU to score six straight to give it the 8-4 lead. The Falcons led 12-7 but took over and eventually took a double-digit lead at 20-9 due in large part Lowell and Cavell’s attack as the duo combined for five kills in the 8-2 stretch. The home team went on to win the set 25-10 to win the match 3-1.

Their blocking game, which had been held at bay in the first two sets, really came on,” Shoemaker said. They had nine blocks over the final two sets and they decided that Keri and Sam were not going to get a swing at all. They loaded up their defense both front court and back court to stop them. If we had been able to get better production out of our middles and right side, I think we could’ve broken it open because they were spending so much of their time and energy shutting down Keri and Sam.”

The Nanooks return home next Thursday to open up a two-match home stand against Western Oregon. The match, which will be the program’s Dig Pink match, is set for a 7 p.m. start.

“We want to do everything we can to stay healthy,” Shoemaker said. “We have such a short bench that it’s very important that we keep people healthy. We’re going to have to continue to work on our weaknesses and maximize our strength. We have to create more strengths. Offensively, you can’t win with two people, it’s too much to ask. I feel we’re making progress with our block and our defense and our serve and pass game is doing alright. Offensively we have to become more productive across the board.”