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UAA volleyball falls in national final

By Dave Goldman 4:10 PM December 10, 2016

Last updated at 6:36 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 10

The run ended one short.

After a magical ride, University of Alaska Anchorage Seawolves volleyball team dropped a straight sets match in the Division II National Championship to top-ranked and top-seeded Concordia University St. Paul — 25-19, 25-12, 25-12 — at the Sanford Center in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

UAA (34-3) had no answer in any category against the more powerful Golden Bears (35-2), who claimed their eighth title for the program. It also represented a bookend for the seniors who last won it as freshman.

It wasn’t UAA head coach Chris Green’s first time on the biggest stage. He led Western Nebraska Community College to a junior college title back in 2007. But Saturday, his Seawolves had to settle for second best.

“We have a young team,” Green said. “Hopefully we learned something tonight, what it takes to be a national champion. Hopefully our returners take something away from this match and they know. Now we know.”

There is no doubt who the top team is in Division II. UAA was making a bid for the school’s first national title in any sport. Both basketball teams advanced but lost in the finals — the men’s team in 1988, and women’s in 2016.

The statistics don’t lie. UAA had been so strong in its two previous performances in Sioux Falls against Angelo State University and Palm Beach Atlantic University. But the numbers Saturday were significantly lower. They couldn’t make it to 20 points in any of the three sets.

“If we go to X’s and O’s, it was about them taking away our offense with their tough serve,” Green explained. “We just could not handle that. We just weren’t able to serve-receive as we normally do.”

Concordia-St. Paul head coach Brady Starkey agreed.

“I don’t think tonight was indicative of the way his team normally plays,” Starkey said. “I think they would probably want that one back to do it over again”

But Starkey’s team had a lot to do with UAA’s issues.

Individually, Chrisalyn Johnson only registered three kills. Leah Swiss had eight. Both Dimond High School products were in double digits in the other two victories. Concordia-St. Paul won the dig category 51-27 and kills were 50-23, also in favor of the Golden Bears.

Their cheering section was more vocal too, as it should have been — its campus is only four hours from Sioux Falls.

For two seniors, it represented the final match wearing the green and gold. Morgan Hooe and Erin Braun put the team on their shoulders this season and were both emotional at the press conference.

“It’s been an incredible ride the past four years,” said setter Hooe. “Coming in with seven new kids this year, I honestly never thought we’d get this far.”

For Hooe, a local from South High School, it meant everything to continue to put Alaska volleyball on the map.

But Braun hails from San Bernardino, California. She recognized her adopted home state.

“I’m not from Alaska, but I really want to shout out to Alaska abut how much they welcomed me and how much support they give for every game,” she said.

The program, now in its 36-year history gave that back to the University, the state of Alaska, and itself a memorable trip. In return it has a solid base to build upon.

“Even though we’re second in the nation, we’re second in the nation and we’re from Alaska and that’s pretty amazing in itself,” Hooe said.

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