DEREK CLARKSTON/Kodiak Daily Mirror

Kodiak’s Katrina Pruitt tips the ball against Wasilla during a high school volleyball match earlier this season in Kodiak. 

The biggest concern for Kodiak volleyball coach Amy Willis heading into the Northern Lights Conference Championships in Soldotna was not the competition but the weather.

Rightfully so, especially after her team missed a tournament earlier this season because of inclement weather. 

Fog covered the island on Tuesday and Wednesday, which caused several flights to be canceled.

“Getting there is going to be a little anxious for us — we are nervous about the weather,” said Willis during Tuesday evening’s practice at Kodiak High School. 

Willis’ nightmare became reality Wednesday morning when the flight the team was scheduled on was canceled because of weather. Kodiak struck out again when the afternoon flight it was on was also canceled. 

Kodiak will try again this morning, this time flying to Anchorage on Alaska Air, then catching another flight to Kenai. 

If the Bears — the No. 5 seed with an 0-8 conference record — reach Soldotna, they will open the NLC tournament against No. 4 Palmer at 3 p.m. The winner advances to play top-seed Colony at 7 p.m. 

With only five teams in the conference, Willis was expecting to see the No. 2 seed in the opening round and was surprised when it turned out to be the No. 4 seed Palmer. 

“That is pretty dumb lucky for us. Out of all the teams that we could strategically beat, Palmer is obviously the team with the beatable record,” Willis said. 

Palmer finished 4-4 in the NLC, which included a pair of sweeps over Kodiak in late October. Colony won the regular-season title with a 6-2 record. Wasilla and Soldotna both finished with 5-3 records, with the Warriors snagging the No. 2 seed based off a tiebreaker.  

“I feel like we have been evolving all season to try to get where we need to get to — I hope that we are going to peak at the right time,” Willis said. 

Kodiak will be looking to snap an 0-6 regional skid, a mark dating back to 2016. The Bears’ last win at regions punctuated a 2015 championship season.

Asked how to summarize the regular season, Willis said “unexpected.” Two players Willis expected to be in the starting rotation did not tryout, while weather kept the Bears from attending one of the bigger tournaments of the season. The team also endured a horrific flight, which circled the airport before returning to Anchorage. 

 “I started my preseason with a certain mindset; then it was different. You adapt,” she said. “What has been a lot of fun has been hanging out with these kids — they are a class-act group of kids.” 

Wasilla plays Soldotna at  5 p.m. The double-elimination tournament concludes with the championship game at 1 p.m. Saturday. 

The top two teams qualify for the state tournament. 

“I have great humans, and great humans can do amazing things,” Willis said. “These are kids who work hard ... they come to practice every day and work hard for me and each other.”


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