Nanook Volleyball opens season 3-1

Long named GNAC Defensive Player of the Week
Published: Aug. 25, 2022 at 8:03 AM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - The Alaska Nanooks Volleyball team opened their 2022 season on the road at the Hawaii-Alaska challenge in Honolulu, Hawaii. The Nooks opened the year with a three set sweep of the Hawaii Hilo Vulcans. Three players: Karli Nielson, Ella Bines, and Kristina Head combined for 22 of the team’s 33 kills. Elizabeth Jackson was all over the net blocking six Vulcan attacks. Taylor Overn and Ainsley Smith each had 13 assists.

In their second game of the season, Alaska took on the twenty fifth-ranked Chaminade Silverswords. Alaska and Chaminade traded sets one through four, and were forced to go to the fifth and final set. Last season, the fifth set was not friendly to the Nanooks -- Alaska only winning one of seven games that required all five sets, but the first five set game of 2022 was a different story. The Nooks only fell behind Chaminade twice and neither time did the Silverswords grow a lead more than one point. Alaska claimed five of the last eight points to secure the upset.

During day two of the Hawaii-Alaska challenge, the blue and gold started their day on the right foot, sweeping the Hawaii Pacific Sharks in three sets. Freshman, Ella Bines, was the only player to have double-digit kills with ten. Rilee White led the team in kills with eleven, and Kristina Head had five blocks.

The fourth and final game in Hawaii was a rematch with Chaminade. The Nanooks claimed the first set of the night by a narrow, three-point margin. However, Chaminade would not lose another set, claiming the split in a 3-1 victory for the Silverswords. Alaska was out-hit 17.1% to Chaminade’s 28.9% and committed nine more errors than their opponents.

“Other than we would’ve loved to have gone 4-0, the fact that we split with a very good Chaminade team... For us to come up with one of those wins, is a big deal for our program,” assessed head coach, Brian Scott. “I’m proud of the girls. They gritted through some tough games, and it was a good weekend.”

In addition to the good weekend as a team, graduate senior libero, Jessa Long, was named the Great Northwest Athletic Conference’s (GNAC) defensive player of the week. This is the first week the GNAC has handed out player of the week awards for the 2022-23 season.

Long, was all over the court, playing in all 15 sets the Nanooks played over the weekend. She recorded 59 digs in four games (3.93/game). Long also had 15 assists (1.0/set) and 66 receptions (90.9%). By far, Long’s best game was the first against Chaminade. She posted her season high’s in digs (20), assists (6), and aces (1).

“I was not expecting it at all,” stated Long. “It’s a really great start. Actually, we were in the gym and my teammates told me. The chemistry is definitely there with this team. It’s great to have that great support... I love this team.”

At the end of last season, Brian Scott and the Nanooks program graduated seven seniors. Left with many holes to fill, Scott secured Jessa Long as his libero for the 2022 season. Again, Long is a graduate transfer who came to UAF from Florida A&M.

“I don’t even remember which game it was, but afterwards, we told Jessa, ‘That’s exactly what we were expecting to see from you.’ She was just out there, balling it out,” recalled Scott. “She was digging up some crazy digs. That’s what we knew we were going to be getting. We’re excited to have her on board.

With Hawaii in the rearview mirror, Alaska now shifts their focus to the weekend ahead. Once again, the Nooks will be on the road, but closer to home at the UAA Invitational in Anchorage. Thursday, Alaska meets the Point Loma Sea Lions. On Friday, the Nanooks face Emmanuel College (GA), and Saturday is another double header. The two opponents are Lubbock Christian (TX) and Pittsburg State (KS). The following weekend is when Alaska makes their home debut at The Patty... September 1 versus Black Hills State.