Volleyball heads to Hawaii to open 2013 season

Photo by Paul McCarthy
Photo by Paul McCarthy

Chris Brooks

The Alaska Nanooks women’s volleyball team opens its 2013 campaign this week with a four-game road trip to the islands of Hawaii. The regular season begins Thursday at Hawaii-Hilo and continues Friday at No. 5 BYU-Hawaii, then wraps up with two games Saturday in Honolulu, first against Chaminade in the afternoon, followed by Hawaii Pacific that evening.

Live audio broadcasts will be available for all four Nanooks matches in Hawaii, with play-by-play and color analysis from Chris Brooks. Live stats will be available for Friday’s match at No. 5 BYU-Hawaii, and Saturday afternoon’s match at Chaminade.

The Nanooks (0-0, 0-0 GNAC) open their season with a trip to Hawaii for the second time in three years to face some of the region’s, and nation’s, top teams. The road trip will be Mallory Larranaga’s first as head coach of the program, and plenty of freshmen and redshirts will see their first in-game action this weekend as well.

“It’s really important for us to win in Hawaii, but not just for our team, for the (Great Northwest Athletic Conference)” said Larranaga. “We have a lot of jobs to do and we’re really trying to keep it simple for our athletes so they can execute what they need to, but winning is at the top of my list.”

Alaska, which finished 6-18 last season and 4-14 in GNAC play, returns four players who started at least 10 matches last season to lead a group of six newcomers that will make an immediate impact with the program. Last year’s GNAC Co-Freshman of the year Sam Harthun leads a dynamic front line that also includes the team’s lone senior in 2013, Keri Knight.

Size will be key for the Nanooks this weekend and this season after adding four freshman who stand at 6 feet or taller. Lilah Hudson and Cassidy Brewer, 6-2 and 6-3, respectively, lead the way as the team’s “freshmen twin towers.” The Nanooks’ roster now includes seven players listed at 6 foot or taller, up from two in 2012.

Match #1: Alaska at Hawaii-Hilo – Thursday, Aug. 29 at 9 p.m. (AKDT)
Important Links: LIVE AUDIO
Hawaii-Hilo (4-17, 4-11 PacWest – 2012) avoided the Pacific West Conference cellar in 2012 but still finished tied for 12th in the 14-team conference. The Vulcans lost their top two hitters from last season in Pacific West Conference Freshman of the Year Bria Morgan (382 kills) and senior Patty Snel (157 kills), as well as their starting setter, Jolie Au (528 assists).

Match #2: Alaska at #5 BYU-Hawaii – Friday, Aug. 30 at 9:30 p.m. (AKDT)
The Seasiders (25-4, 16-0 PacWest – 2012) dominated the Pacific West Conference with an unblemished conference record in 2012 and made it all the way to the semifinals of the NCAA Division II Tournament. They begin 2013 as a top-five ranked team, thanks in part to a talented returning core that includes All-Americans Shih Ting Chen and setter Ying Chun Chen, the PacWest preseason Player of the Year. All-PacWest honorees middle blocker Erh Fang Hsu and libero Melanie Manutai also return for BYU-Hawaii.

Match #3: Alaska at Chaminade – Saturday, Aug. 31 at 3 p.m. (AKDT)
Important Links: LIVE STATS   LIVE AUDIO
Chaminade (7-17, 4-11 PacWest – 2012) finished tied for 12th in the PacWest last season with Hawaii-Hilo, and were chosen in the conference’s preseason poll to perform similarly at 11th. The team does, however, return two of its top three hitters from last season in sophomore Kim Spring (263 kills) and senior Crystal Powell (187 kills), as well as their setter from a year ago, Valentina Bevilacqua (335 assists).

Match #4: Alaska at Hawaii Pacific – Saturday, Aug. 31 at 8 p.m. (AKDT)
Important Links: LIVE AUDIO
The Sea Warriors (17-8, 10-6 PacWest – 2012) return 13 players, including five of seven starters from 2012. 2012 All-PacWest selections Chelsey Buyuan (375 digs) and Haley Doerfler (188 kills, 96 total blocks) lead the way for HPU into 2013 after the team was picked to finish fifth in the PacWest preseason poll.