Nov. 19, 2009

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. - Sophomore Jackie Matthisen had a match-high 19 kills and made three consecutive huge plays in the final three points of the match Thursday to lift the Alaska Anchorage volleyball team to its first-ever NCAA Tournament victory, 29-27, 28-26, 21-25, 16-25, 15-12, over 14th-ranked Hawaii Hilo at Coyote Gymnasium.

The Seawolves (23-7) - the tournament's No. 5 seed - also got 11 kills from sophomore outside hitter McKenzie Moss as they handed the Vulcans just their second loss of the season and avenged an 0-3 setback in Oahu in September.

The 4th-seeded Vulcans (25-2), champions of the Pacific West Conference, were led by 12 kills apiece from outside hitters Josimara Pinheiro and Kawena Cubi-Otineru.

UAA pulled out nail-biting wins in the first and second sets to take an early 2-0 advantage. In the first, the Vulcans fought of three set points to tie it 24-24, and Pinheiro gave her team 25-24 and 26-25 leads with a pair of kills. Tied at 27-27, Pinheiro hit into the block of freshman Marie Borowikow and senior Ashley Bates. Moss then registered a kill on an off-speed attack to give the Seawolves the set.

The second set was tight throughout, featuring 14 ties and six lead changes. Trailing 24-23, Bates rescued the Seawolves with a kill just inside the endline, and Bates and Borowikow followed with a solo block. Cubi-Otinera ripped a kill to make it 26-26, but Borowikow notched one of her six kills, and Moss came through on set point again.

But UAA fell behind early in sets 3 and 4 as the Vulcans seemed to grab all of the momentum.

Hilo led 8-6 in the fifth when the teams switched sides of the court, and took a 10-7 lead moments later. That provided the cue for UAA's final rally, with Borowikow and Moss making consecutive kills, and UHH's Morgan Bonney hitting the ball out of bounds.

The Vulcans took a 12-11 lead on Pinheiro's final kill before UAA rallied with the final four points of the match. Junior Cortney Lundberg (8 kills, 6 total blocks) slammed a kill into the middle of the court for yet another tie, and Matthisen overpowered Bonney on a joust at the net to go up 13-12. The next point was almost a carbon copy as Matthisen met Katie Swenson at the net and forced the Vulcan setter into a double-hit.

With senior libero Stacie Meisner serving on match point, the Vulcans were unable to get off an attack, and UAA took advantage by setting Matthisen, who blasted a cross-court kill, setting off a Seawolf celebration.

Meisner finished with a match-high 29 digs, while senior setter Scott - the Great Northwest Athletic Conference Player-of-the-Year - dished 45 assists and contributed on three of UAA's season-high-tying 15 blocks.

"Our block was a lot stronger than the first time we played them," said UAA head coach Chris Green, whose team extended its school-record win streak to 13. "I think we played nervous throughout, but the players have really bought into our philosophy and stuck with it. Just like all season, they never panicked."

Bates, a senior middle blocker, notched four kills and matched her career-high with seven total blocks (all assists). Borowikow also had total seven blocks.

The Great Northwest Athletic Conference champions now move on to Friday's regional semifinal match (6:30 p.m. AST) against the winner of top-seeded and nationally 2nd-ranked Cal State-San Bernardino vs. GNAC rival Seattle Pacific.

Thursday's early results included 6th-seeded Cal State-Los Angeles upsetting 3rd-seeded Sonoma State in five sets, while 2nd-seeded and nationally 3rd-ranked UC San Diego disposed of 7th-seeded San Francisco State, 3-0.