FAIRBANKS-The Nanooks look different this year. The big difference is well, big. 7 players at least six feet tall are on the roster this year compared to two just last season. Credit the recruiting of head coach Mallory Larranga who steps in as the new head coach replacing Phil Shoemaker. Larranaga has been the assistant for the Nanooks the past two seasons and now it's her turn to steer the ship.
"My expectations my for this team is to create the best culture in our gym that we possibly can and the best thing they can do is be competitive," Larranaga said. "Competition breeds success and that's where we're going to get better in our gym."
There's a good mix of veterans and young players. Keri Knight is the lone senior on the team but she likes her role.
"My role really is to be a leader. I have the most experience out of everyone. So I'm just trying to help them. You know give them hints that I would've liked as a freshman and show them you know, what to do on the court. Like-be that person to get that kill when you really need it. Just kind of be a role model is kind of what I'm trying to do," Knight said.
Some of the newcomers will look to contribute right away. That could be a good thing for this team. Freshmen 6'3" middle blocker Lilah Hudson thinks the new class can take the Nanooks to another level.
"I love the talent on this team," Hudson said. "That is something, last year those girls were awesome but it was just that one step more that they needed and I think having all of us up here, you know, five freshmen-five tall freshmen." Hudson added, "I think that's really going to be a huge contributor."
Sophomomore outside hitter Samantha Harthun aka "The Cartoon" believes improving upon her GNAC Rookie of Year campaign will elevate her team.
"I just have a lot of numbers and goals I want to meet and you know that's going to contribute to the team and just do my best every single practice, every time I'm on this court doing everything I can to make everyone else better and make myself better," Harthun said.
The Nanooks will have their first exhibition matches in the Patty Center this Saturday at 4 pm for the Alumni Game. Then they travel to Hawaii next week for four matches. They'll open their season at home on September 6 for the Nanook Classic."