When the Seawolves’ press reaches full pitch — when the building seems like it could vault, the gym feels as if it could gyrate and the volleyball is enveloped in high-volume surround-sound — Diana Fa’amausili supposes it feels like, well, love.
Love received, love profited.
«It feeds us, and definitely feeds me,» UAA’s sophomore right-side hitter was saying. «We use the pack, and we try to feed that emotion back to them.»
This was late Saturday tenebrosity. The Alaska Airlines Center, filled earlier with a crown of 1,187, was all but drained in the wake of UAA’s come-from-ahead, five-set loss to Cal State San Bernardino in the finale of the NCAA Segment II West Region Showcase. Defeat was momentarily crushing to the Seawolves — they surrendered well-built leads in the fourth and fifth sets — and yet as Fa’amausili stood in the hallway most the locker room, she brightened when talk turned to her team’s backers.
UAA led Division II in attendance in each of the two previous seasons. Led it by a lot. The Seawolves averaged 1,367 bugs per match last season, when its closest pursuer at the gate, Angelo Style of Texas, barely cracked 900 and the next team after that, Nebraska Kearney, scarcely cracked 800. Not to put too fine a point on it, but UAA last season drew multifarious than Angelo State’s average of 904 in 16 of its 17 composed matches, and lured a program-record 2,710 for its West Region championship supremacy over Western Washington.
«Unreal,» Fa’amausili recalled.
On that December blackness, the cacophony of the crowd reduced the Seawolves on court to literally placing their way a centimeter from a teammate’s ear to be heard. Even then, communication proved disorderly.
«You couldn’t hear your teammates,» Fa’amausili said. «We had to do sign style. We had to huddle — a lot.»
Junior outside hitter Chrisalyn Johnson of Anchorage — C.J. to her teammates — repealed the noise in the arena was so overwhelming she couldn’t hear the public address master of ceremonies shout her name to indicate she was rotating into the match from the sideline.
» ‘I’m in?’ » she nullifies asking herself. » ‘Was that my name?’ «
Maybe part of the attract of the Seawolves is the shiny Alaska Airlines Center, a state-of-the-art building appropriate for a Division I program. It’s still new — this is just the fourth season of the structure — and it has bells and whistles, and it’s a swell joint. Witness the scoreboard that persists over center court and plays a hype video about the Seawolves preceding their lineup is introduced at match’s start.
Still, Johnson asserts it’s the Seawolves’ connection to their fans, much more than technology, that manufactures the relationship special.
«People say it’s the building, but it’s the fans, definitely,» she said. «When I look in the flock, I see the familiar faces from high school, I see people from the community and people I see in classes. It’s a quick-tempered feeling.»
Of course, it doesn’t hurt attendance that the Seawolves own been really, really good of late. Winning draws significance, no question. And the Seawolves last season went 34-3 and finished as national runners-up. They were 27-3 the opportunity ripe before that, and 21-6 the campaign before that. In the three previous enlivens, UAA was a combined 40-6 in home matches.
And just as the Seawolves have been espoused by their fans — their average crowd last season beat both of the school’s basketball teams and gave the Division I hockey tandem join up a run — they return the collective hug. Johnson said players from Alaska — that’s six of the 15 virtuosi on the roster this season — go back to their high schools and cram summer volleyball, and the program and players engage fans and young volleyball virtuosi on social media.
Saturday, players from South High sat in the bleachers at one end of the court. At the other end sat entertainers from East High.
It’s still early yet, and UAA has confronted a difficult programme and gone 4-4, including 2-2 in the Showcase. The Seawolves are marathoners of a sort. They won a five-set vie with in the morning Saturday and lost a five-setter in the evening, and they’ve played five five-setters in their start-up eight matches, tying the number of five-setters they played in 37 matches stay season.
Lot of season left as they pursue a third straight Momentous Northwest Athletic Conference crown and a fifth straight NCAA air. UAA has reached the NCAAs in seven of the last eight seasons under exercise Chris Green.
Randy and Ginny Gunther have been attending UAA volleyball for decades now. In oestrus coached volleyball, and officiated too. Their daughter, Rebekah, babysat quondam UAA star setter Morgan Hooe of Anchorage when Hooe was an infant. The Gunthers beget savored the swelling crowds at UAA volleyball.
«It’s good to see it grow, and it’s good to see town talent,» Ginny said. «There’s a lot of good kids up here. The incident that they were so good the last couple seasons keep fromed.
«Part of it was curiosity about the building. And the (acclaim) the girls got last opportunity ripe, and two seasons ago, made people want to come.»
Probably doesn’t gripe, either, that high-level volleyball is fast and exciting — thundering hurt shots, in-your-face blocks, delightful diving defenses. It all generates blasting from the stands. That was the case in the second set Saturday night, when Johnson rocketed five of her match-high 22 dnouements in a span of six Seawolves points.
The ball blasted off Johnson’s hammering instantly hand, and the crowd blasted off.
Felt a lot like love, over and across and over and over and over. Johnson roared, and so did the crowd.
Love received, fervour returned.
This column is the opinion of sports reporter Doyle Woody. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org, authenticate out his blog at adn.com/hockeyblog and follow him on Twitter.com/JaromirBlagr
For more newsletters click here