UAF Volleyball defeats UAA, off to best conference start since '99

FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) The University of Alaska Fairbanks Volleyball program is living up to the hype. The team went into the season with high exceptions, as they were tabbed with their best preseason ranking in the program's history.

Tuesday night, the Nanooks exceeded those expectations, taking down one of the conference's powerhouses. UAF improved to 3-0 in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference after defeating their in-state rivals, the UAA Seawolves in four sets (21-25, 25-19, 25-22, 25-22).

UAF is off to their first 3-0 start in conference play since 1999, proving they should be in the conversation for one of the best teams in the GNAC.

UAF struggled out of the gates, dropping the first set, but it was the decisive fourth set that separated the Nanooks. After trailing midway through that fourth set, the 'Nooks poured in eight of the next 11 points, to take the late lead and ultimately the match.

AveRee Reynolds led the Nanooks with 13 kills and an impressive .357 hitting percentage.

"It is super fun, especially with this team," Reynolds said after the victory. "Just hearing them talk about what they want to do on the court and the things they want to accomplish as a team. Getting a win is always the end goal, but just the fight and the fun they have it is awesome."

Setter Cate Whiting missed some time when she ran into her teammate causing a bloody nose and a pause in the action. Still, Whiting fought through it and racked up 34 assists, eight kills and eight digs.

"Coming back on the court, honestly I was a little lost," Whiting said about her injury. "While I was away the team still had the right mind set and we were still really disciplined...I don't think it slowed us down at all, I think it slowed down Anchorage."

Another notable performance came from newcomer Lahra Weber, who produced nine kills and four service aces.

UAF is off to their first 3-0 start in conference play since 1999, proving they should be in the conversation for one of the best teams in the GNAC.

"It is different than the last two years," Whiting said of their hot start. "I think it is in the back of our minds that we want to break our streak from last year, that is a good goal to accomplish...I think we are proving to the GNAC that we are a team to compete with this year."

The once lop-sided rivalry has taken a turn over the last few years. Before the meeting on October 9, 2018, where the Nanooks swept UAA, UAF had lost 18 of the 19 games in the history of the rivalry. However, after picking up the win Tuesday, the Nanooks have now beaten the Seawolves in consecutive games. No matter the sport, UAF vs. UAA will always be a classic rivalry with an abundance of energy surrounding it. That is why UAF's head coach Brian Scott hopes to be able to keep the historic matchup intact, with all of the speculations involving the future of the University of Alaska System.

"It would be a shame to see a rivalry like that end because we don't have athletics at one of these institutions," Scott said after the game. "That would be just a shame and I hope that everything that is going on with the school that it gets cleared up and we're able to continue this because that is way too much fun. That atmosphere is too spectacular for a student body not to be able to go and enjoy. I hope that we make that possible." Scott added, who is in his fifth year as UAF's head coach.

The Nanooks will put their undefeated conference record to the test Thursday against Montana State Billings for a rare 11:30 a.m. match. UAF plans to bring in buses full of elementary students to spend a day with the Nanooks and to watch the volleyball team in action.

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