“Look mommy! It’s a Seawolf!”
That’s what a little girl said as she pointed at Stacie Meisner and a fellow UAA volleyball teammate wearing their green and gold warm-up suits at a grocery store in Anchorage.
“It is very nice to be recognized and supported by the community,” says team captain Meisner. She’s found all her UAA professors to be very supportive, too. Some even bother to pull her aside after class to tell her what a great job the team is doing.
The lady Seawolves worked hard this year and deserve that recognition. They claimed their first Great Northwest Athletic Conference (GNAC) championship in mid-November 2009. Meisner played an integral role in that win with 26 digs, contributing to a strong defense and a lethal offense that was devastating to their opponent. Known for always having a smile on her face, Meisner is still fiercely competitive.
After being picked to finish seventh in the GNAC’s pre-season coaches’ poll, UAA’s squad wound up winning the league by three full matches, boosted by a school-record 13-match win streak. Coach Chris Green earned both the GNAC and NCAA Division II West Region coach-of-the-year awards as the Seawolves tied for the best winning percentage (.742) and posted the second-most victories in program history.
Following the completion of the NCAA Division II Fall Championships season, the Seawolves rank a program-best 14th in the Learfield Sports Director’s Cup standings and 24th in the final NCAA Division II poll by the American Volleyball Coaches Association. The ranking marks UAA’s first appearance in the national poll since coming in 25th in 1992.
“This whole season was amazing. No one expected us to do what we did,” says Meisner. The team’s great achievements are no fluke. At the beginning of the season Meisner sat down with her co-captain, Calli Scott, and talked about their game plan. They knew they had a real good team and that if they worked hard, they could win.
“The attitude on the team was definitely a winning attitude but also a hard-working attitude. The difference from the year before was just having more confidence, which was contagious and the rest of the team became more confident.”
All the out-of-state players live in UAA’s Templewood apartment community, so it is like having a second family for the team members – a home away from home. “We have a lot of laughs and fun,” says Meisner. She thinks the best part about being a college athlete is this “built-in community.” She says, “Being on an athletic team dispels those fears others might have when they go to college alone. Plus, it spans to other teams, coaches and departments. It makes the college experience better when you have that second family.”
Meisner’s hard-working attitude is influenced by her first family: her parents. Her father is a farmer so is no stranger to hard work. “He’s always out in the field and he cares for what he does. That passion shows along with his great attitude and work ethic – that has rubbed off on me in a very positive way.”
Meisner is from Scottsbluff, Nebraska. That is also where Western Nebraska Community College (WNCC) is located and where Coach Green was head coach for nine seasons before coming to UAA. Meisner played with a club volleyball team in high school that Green coached and was also with him for two years at WNCC before following him up to Alaska.
Green says of Meisner, “She’s a great competitor and a great person. She’s a good leader who leads by example as well as with her words as she’s very well spoken.”
Meisner says, “At UAA I’ve gained a lot of independence. WNCC is in my hometown, so attending community college wasn’t a very big change.” She likes sharing the wisdom gained from her experience and helping the freshman with that transitional period of being away from home for the first time.
This natural leadership has Meisner warming up for her career plans. She wants to be a volleyball coach and high school English teacher, perhaps heading back to her roots at WNCC. She is inspired by her favorite teacher from high school. Meisner says, “Mrs. Douglas could get students excited about those things that most students don’t like, such as Shakespeare or reading.”
As a senior, 2009 was her last year playing but she doesn’t graduate until 2011 with an English major and journalism minor, so she is volunteering to help with the team this semester. Green says, “She’s one of the best defensive players I’ve coached with her ability to dig for those fast and hard balls, and she always has a positive attitude.”
And who wouldn’t want an eternal optimist around? As Meisner says, “Happy people make the world a better place.”