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Wildcats Travel to The Last Frontier to Face Anchorage and Fairbanks


The Central Washington University volleyball team makes the trip to Alaska to take on Anchorage, on Thursday, then Fairbanks on Saturday.

The Wildcats remain in the American Volleyball Coaches Association Top 25 Coaches Poll, at No. 25, after a pair of wins over Concordia and Western Oregon.

In the NCAA Regional Poll, Central Washington is ranked third behind Western Washington and Anchorage.

The Wildcats sit at 16-5 overall and 12-2 in Great Northwest Athletic Conference action.  Central is in the midst of a crowded battle atop the GNAC standings, with four teams at 12-2 in conference play.

One of those teams is the University of Alaska Anchorage.  The No. 11 Seawolves are 18-2 on the season and are 12-2 in GNAC play, claiming the second slot in the West region.

Thursdays match is a reversal of the Wildcats' October 10th match in Ellensburg.  The Seawolves captured a 3-1 victory, spurred by 17 kills from Katelynn Zanders and 15 from Julia Mackey.

Anchorage has won its past five matches, dropping only one set to rival Alaska.  Zanders leads all Seawolves' hitters with 295 kills, averaging 3.78 kills per set.  Mackey is the most efficient hitter for Anchorage, posting an efficiency of .326.

"It is a big match for both teams, a lot of implications on the standings," CWU Head Coach Mario Andaya said.  "We know what they're capable of.  They are a team that comes after you on offense and on defense they are scrappy enough to keep the ball alive and force points.  We need to key in on certain individuals and neutralize their attack."

Fairbanks finds itself in the bottom third of the conference table with a 4-10 record in GNAC play.  The Nanooks are 4-17 overall.

The last time the Wildcats and Nanooks played, Central recorded a 3-0 sweep over Alaska.  Linden Firethorne led the Wildcats with 19 kills.

Sam Harthun has been the offense for Alaska this season.  The Oregon City native has 293 kills, more than double the player below her.  She has also taken 794 attempts, another team high.  She is hitting a clip of just .184, however.  As a team, the Nanooks have posted a .118 hitting efficiency.

The Wildcats are now second in the nation in blocks per set (2.85) after being unseated by GNAC foe Northwest Nazarene (2.86).  Sabrina Wheelhouse is eighth in the nation, individually, with 1.38 blocks per set.

Wheelhouse is also 32nd in hitting efficiency at .353 and 28th in total blocks with 107.

Firethorne leads the Wildcats' offense with 301 kills, while Kiah Jones has gone a hot streak in her last four matches.  Jones has notched 60 kills over the past four matches, including 19 against Concordia.

"Kiah has always been capable," Andaya said of his junior outside.  "We have a lot of options on offense and sometimes she gets overlooked.  Any night she can step up and be a leader for us.  We like where we are going with the balance we have, we need to make sure that we are keeping teams off balance."

She has compiled 203 kills on the year.

Senior setter Catie Fry is nearing the quadruple digits in the assist column.  She has 859 assists, averaging 10.48 per set.

"Her job is to get our offense to be efficient and score," Andaya added.  "If she sees an opportunity to attack the ball, she does that.  But she knows she is a setter first and gets our hitters going."

Fry also tallied a career high nine kills in both matches last week.

Kaitlin Quirk has recorded 101 total blocks with six solo blocks and 95 assists.