Wildcats hope to climb national rankings

Rachel Charlton, Assistant Sports Editor

After a three-game winning streak was snapped by the Alaska Anchorage Seawolves, the Wildcats will be on the prowl for redemption this Saturday as they face Simon Fraser.

The Seawolves brought an aggressive front that affected the Wildcat defense.

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“We need to sustain our physicality so we don’t miss defense assignments and can run our offense,” Head Coach Mario Andaya said.

Anchorage’s five-set triumph boosted them to an 11-3 overall record and a 5-1 Great Northwest Athletic Conference standing, while the Wildcats dropped to 10-3 overall and 3-2 in the GNAC. The victory was Anchorage’s 13th consecutive road win — a new school record.

The Wildcats opened the GNAC Sept. 18th with an unsatisfactory three-set loss to Northwest Nazarene University.

“We have grown a lot since that first loss against NNU. I think since then we have done better at knowing who we are as a team on the court,” middle blocker Kaitlin Quirk said.

By the second conference game, however, a rhythm seemed to have developed as the Wildcats bounced back to a three-set win over Saint Martin’s University.

The momentum continued in a 3-2 set victory over Western Oregon University. Central took home court advantage last Thursday to defeat the University of Alaska Nanooks in three sets.

Northwest Nazarene currently leads the conference in first place and garnered the school’s first ranking in NCAA history. Central, sitting in fourth place behind Montana State University Billings, will look for its fourth conference win against the sixth-ranked Simon Fraser.

“Simon Fraser brings new challenges. We need to make sure we execute our system and play to our potential,” Andaya said.

Both Central and Simon Fraser have 13 returning players from last season’s team. Of those 13 Wildcats, eight played in at least 30 sets during last year.

The Wildcats ability to the set the tone and execute their offense this season helped secure the three consecutive wins. They plan to revert back to the basics in order to rout the Clan this weekend.

“We have really been focusing on being a fundamentally strong team. Having a good base so we can be comfortable on the court together and just play and have fun out there,” Quirk said.

The teams relationship off the court has influenced the work ethic they expect from one another during tough games.

“We’re all good friends so we all come in ready to have fun and work hard for each other,” setter Catie Fry said.

The GNAC boasts three nationally ranked teams with Western Washington University in 11th place. The Wildcats are currently ranked 18th, one place ahead of Northwest Nazarene University.

Saturday’s match starts at 7 p.m.