There’s just one thing Cook Inlet Academy senior Kelsie Leaf wants to change about how her team played the first match of the Alaska School Activities Association Class 1-2A Volleyball State Championships.
She wants the winning streak to start with Game 1, not Game 2.
The Eagles won the match 3-1, besting the Kalskag by just two points at the end of the fourth game.
“That was, I think, the best we’ve ever played,” Leaf said. “And it’s huge to come in and win our first game. It feels awesome.”
After the Grizzlies took an early lead and won the first game 25-20, the Eagles came back and didn’t let the Grizzlies get more than a point or two ahead in the next two and a half games. CIA took Games 2 and 3 25-21 and 25-19.
“It was a great match … doesn’t get much tighter than that,” said Kalskag coach Marcus Dammeyer.
Game 4 got a little closer. CIA led for the first three serves. The Grizzlies tied it up 2-2 on the fourth and got ahead with their performance close to the net. The two teams vied for the lead for more than two dozen serves, neither getting more than three points ahead of the other. Then two short serves by Kalskag’s Jodi Samuelson put the Grizzlies at 21-24, in position to push the match to a fifth game.
But the Eagles stayed together.
“I just credit the whole team for staying composed even when we were down,” Leaf said. “The score was 21-24, I think, and we came back and won it,” she said.
Sophomore Erica McGahan had three serves that helped the Eagles catch up. She said she felt the pressure.
“That was so scary,” she said.
On McGahan’s second serve, junior Megan Bauder tipped the ball to tie the game 24-24. After one point by Kalskag put the game at 24-25, Bauder went to the back of the court for the last two serves of the game. The Eagles had two points in a row, and won the game 27-25.
Coach Lindsay Keener was said she was proud of how the team finished.
“I guess when Erica and Megan had to serve, there was a lot of pressure on them. ... That was really cool to see them rise to the occasion,” Keener said.
While McGahan and Bauder helped finish the game, Keener said Leaf earned player of the game on the Eagles side of the court. Leaf had crucial serves and kills in each of the games, and she never subbed out.
“She obviously played really well,” Keener said.
Fellow seniors Chloe Nelson and Angie Uchtman were honored as good sports.
On the Kalskag side, Jodi Samuelson earned player of the game for her skills as a setter. Seniors Patricia Holmberg and eVonda Williams were also responsible for many of the team’s successful serves, including some unreturned serves by Holmberg during the second game.
“We had a great game for both of our seniors,” Dammeyer said.
The Eagles play the Kenny Lake Hawks on Friday at 6:45 p.m. to see who advances to the championship game, and who pays for third place. The final games are Saturday.
Friday, Keener said CIA will try to use the momentum from Thursday’s win.
“I think our big thing for our team is just communicating and playing as a team,” Keener said.
McGahan had one more thing she wanted to see improve in match two, beyond another win. “Set more,” she said.
Last year, CIA won their first game and lost the second two. They don’t want to repeat that pattern this year, Keener said.
Keener said she thinks they have the momentum to continue the winning streak.
“I feel like our team’s really peaking at the right time,” Keener said.