The dream of winning a 4A state volleyball title isn’t dead. It just got a lot harder to achieve.
Hours after Kodiak earned its first state tournament win in more than a decade, perennial powerhouse South Anchorage swept the Bears out of the winners’ bracket, 28-26, 25-21, 25-21, in a quarterfinal match at the state championships Thursday evening at Chugiak High School.
Now, Kodiak must fight through the losers’ bracket of this true double-elimination tournament with five consecutive victories if it wants to claim the school’s first state volleyball title. The journey starts at 3 p.m. today against either Colony or Juneau-Douglas.
A week ago, Kodiak (18-2) won its first Northern Lights Conference championship since 1996 by coming through the losers’ bracket.
“Of course we are disappointed that we didn’t win,” Kodiak coach Amy Willis said. “This route worked out well for us last week and hopefully it works out this weekend.”
Earlier in the day, Kodiak kicked off its sixth state tournament appearance — third straight — with a 25-22, 25-11, 25-19 win over host Chugiak that snapped the Bears’ eight-match losing skid. It was Kodiak’s first state win since 1998.
The win moved Kodiak into a quarterfinal showdown with Cook Inlet Conference runner-up South Anchorage, who swept Mid-Alaska champion West Valley 25-18, 25-10, 25-8 in its opener.
In a tightly contested match, the Bears never trailed by more than four points in any set, while their biggest lead was five. Kodiak, like they have all season, was never able to produce game-changing runs as it lost for only the second time in a best-of-5 match.
“It was hard to get our momentum under us,” Willis said. “They have some new coaches and they developed some hitters that we didn’t see when we played them before. They bolstered up their attack and did an excellent job of playing defense against our attack.”
Hannah Wandersee led Kodiak with 11 kills, while Kalameli Matautia added 10 kills. Carissa Cannon, Megan Pyles and Erika Fallorin each had five kills, while Summer McKechnie dished out 30 assists. Cannon was awarded Kodiak’s player of the match award.
Neither team led by more than three points in the first set. Kodiak fought off a pair of set points, and had one of its own when a Wandersee kill put the Bears in front 26-25. South responded with a pair of kills and benefited from a Kodiak error to take the first set.
Down 10-8 in the second, Kodiak went on kill spree to take the lead at 15-10. The Bears couldn’t hold the advantage as South Anchorage rattled off five straight to tie it at 15. After back and forth action, South went ahead late to go up two sets.
The third set featured five ties and six lead changes, the final change coming on a South service ace at 14-13. The Wolverines built a slim 22-19 lead, but Kodiak clawed back to within 22-21. Two straight kills and a Kodiak hitting error gave South the sweep.
‘Our girls played well, South just played a little bit better,” Willis said.
South, who has played in the championship match the past three years, moves into today’s 7 p.m. semifinal against defending champion Dimond, who swept Colony and Palmer Thursday.
Kodiak started its day with a bang by scoring the first nine points of its match against Chugiak. The Bears needed their entire early cushion as the Mustangs tied it at 22. Kodiak escaped disaster by netting the final three points.
A pair of monster runs in the next two sets — 12-4 and 13-4 — sealed Kodiak’s first state win since it beat Juneau in a 1998 first-round match.
“The girls just came out strong and ready to play,” Willis said. “They were a team that we seen before and the girls were focused on what needed to be done and played a great match.”
Cannon led Kodiak with nine kills and two service aces. Megan Pyles and Wandersee each had eight kills, while Matautia added seven kills. McKechnie had 32 assists and Isabelle Riina compiled 24 digs to earn Kodiak’s player of the match award.
Rodas and Nelson were placed on the good sport team.
In other first round action, NLC runner-up Palmer defeated Southeast Conference champion Juneau-Douglas 26-24, 25-19, 27-29, 26-24.
Colony plays Juneau in a loser-out game at 11 a.m. today, while West Valley plays Chugiak 1 p.m. The winner advances to play Palmer at 5 p.m.
Contact Mirror writer Derek Clarkston at firstname.lastname@example.org.