GNAC champions fall in four

It’s never easy to remain optimistic after a season-ending loss, but the Seattle Pacific volleyball team had plenty to be proud of after coming up just short against Brigham Young-Hawaii in the opening round of the NCAA Division II West Region tournament.

“I’m really proud of the way that the team was able to stay united in some of our tough matches and after our losses,” head coach Chris Johnson said.

“I think I’m most proud of our attitude,” senior outside hitter Lindsey Wodrich said. “Not only were we resilient about bouncing back to win the next match after a tough loss, but we stayed [together as] a team as we fought for every point.”

The Falcons struggled early on against BYU-Hawaii, letting the Seasiders establish a 2-0 advantage after winning the two opening games 25-21. They weren’t going to let their season slip away without a fight though, cruising through the next game on the way to a final score of 25-15.

BYU-Hawaii began Game No. 4 on fire, initially taking control with an 8-2 lead. SPU was able to withstand the firepower and fought back to lead 18-15 late in the game. From there, the two teams battled back and forth until the score was 24-22 in the Falcons’ favor.

SPU failed to capitalize on two consecutive game points, as BYU-Hawaii knotted it up at 24. The Falcons and Seasiders exchanged the next eight points in a tug-of-war before reaching a tie at 28.

BYU-Hawaii managed to regain the lead with a kill to put it at 29-28. Then it closed the game with a service ace, officially ending SPU’s season.

Even though they lost, the Falcons remained tight-knit throughout the match.

“Even when we were down, no one got snippy at each other or blamed one another,” Wodrich said. “It’s pretty rare to have such great chemistry as [a] team and be able to stay united, no matter what.”

Senior libero Anna Herold and Wodrich finished out their collegiate careers in style in California. Herold set the school’s all-time single-match record for digs with 46 and wrapped up her time at SPU with a total of 2,316. Wodrich capped off her era in a Falcons uniform with her 35th career double-double, achieved through 24 kills and 15 digs.

Johnson had high praise for his seniors, Herold, Wodrich, outside hitter Paige Hoffman and middle blocker Angie Pricco.

“All four of them have made such significant contributions to the team during their time here and have improved every year as well,” he said. “They have been amazing examples to their teammates of what it means to work hard and compete, and we will miss each of them greatly.”

Wodrich reflected on her experience over the last four years.

“Overall, I just feel so blessed to have been on the volleyball team here. It’s been incredibly rewarding to be a part of a program that went from a losing season our freshman year to setting new records our junior and senior year,” she said. “Apart from that, it’s been such a blast to play the sport I love with the girls I love, watching the girls and the program grow.”

Junior setter Shelby Swanson is one of the players who have grown. She continues to inch her way up the all-time Great Northwest Athletic Conference assists chart, adding 49 in the most recent game to move up to 11th. With another year still left to go at SPU, Swanson will have the opportunity to continue to advance in the list next season.

The Falcons achieved a lot this season despite their early exit from the tournament. They won their second straight GNAC conference championship and closed out the regular season ranked No. 25 in the nation.

“Our team unity and chemistry has been really strong the past few years, and I think that continued to help us this season,” Johnson said. “I’m also very proud that we played with discipline and had the best defense in the conference this year.”

The team also has reason to be optimistic about the future, with Swanson continuing to improve, along with junior Caitlin Fellows and sophomore Nikki Lowell delivering strong performances throughout the season.

“There is a lot that I am optimistic about,” Johnson said. “We have three returning starters and a few others who are ready to be in that role. I’m looking forward to our off season workouts already and believe that we can continue to improve in that time.”

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Title: GNAC champions fall in four | Author: Jon Heddles | Section: Sports | Published Date: 2011-11-30 | Internal ID: 7926