A decade from now, members of the Kodiak volleyball team will not remember the outcome of the 2019 Northern Lights Conference Championships, but instead, they will recall the struggles that it took to get off The Rock.
The Bears were supposed to leave Wednesday for the NLC Championships in Soldotna, but their flight was canceled because of dense fog surrounding the island.
After two more flight cancellations, the team finally arrived in Soldotna late Thursday night — hours after its scheduled match against Palmer.
Instead of absorbing a loss, NLC coaches and the tournament’s board of control tossed the schedule in the garbage and drafted a new one to accommodate the Bears.
“I just can’t say enough how grateful I was that these people cared about my kids and my program to give us that opportunity,” Kodiak coach Amy Willis said.
“I wish we performed a little differently, but the event of this weekend will not go wasted on these young ladies — the giving that people did for us and the caring.”
Kodiak lost both its matches on Friday — 25-18, 25-9, 25-8 to Palmer and 25-20, 25-15, 25-7 to Wasilla.
The Bears wrapped up the season with an 0-11 record.
“I was kind of hoping that sometimes when people go through a stressful event, they rally and have a lot of adrenaline and exceed expectations. That really wasn’t the case for us. My team was just thoroughly exhausted,” Willis said.
It took a miracle — in this case, a group of wrestlers and the fog to clear — for Kodiak to get to the regional tournament.
Willis said the Kodiak High School wrestlers and coaches gave up their seats on a flight to Anchorage so her team and the school’s swimming team could make their events.
“That was such an amazing sacrifice that those athletes volunteered to do that,” Willis said. “We were so blessed to have the kind of school that says, ‘hey, let’s help each other out.’”
After landing in Anchorage, the team then boarded a plane headed to Kenai. Kodiak arrived on the Kenai Peninsula after 10 p.m.
Willis thanked Kodiak Island Borough School district’s Debbie Rohrer and Lisa Johnson for helping them get to the NLC Championships.
Fourth-seeded Palmer overwhelmed No. 5 Kodiak in three sets. The Moose went on to win the NLC title, stunning top-seeded Colony and No. 2 Wasilla along the way.
“They had a phenomenally flawless tournament,” Willis said. “They played so well. It was really fun to watch them be them.”
Kristen Carstens led Kodiak with five kills, while Katrina Pruitt added four kills against the Moose.
Ashley Luto had 14 digs.
Later in the day, Kodiak was swept by Wasilla, but Willis was pleased with the effort.
“We had time to collect ourselves and discuss what we needed to focus on,” the coach said. “We performed better within our program’s capabilities.”
Carstens had five kills, with Pruitt and Emma Ellsworth tossing in four kills each.
Luto had 16 digs.
Wasilla and Soldotna finished second and third and will join Palmer at this week’s state tournament in Anchorage.
Willis, who has led Kodiak to three NLC titles, said this will be a tournament that her players would never forget.
“One of the girls looked at me and said, ‘Coach, this was the best trip ever,’” she said. “I just had to laugh and cry because I thought that was ridiculous. We had tragedy after tragedy but was blessed along the way.”