Duplicating a fourth-place effort at last year's Class 3A state tournament isn't enough for the Seward volleyball team.
The Seahawks are aiming higher in 2011.
"Last year it was one those things where it was, 'We made it to state, let's just win a match," coach Angela Hammer said. "This year we have a lot more confidence and believe we have a chance at going all the way."
Seward opens the tournament against Dillingham at 2 p.m. Thursday at the Curtis D. Menard Memorial Sports Center in Wasilla.
The Seahawks (9-6), second-place finishers at the Southcentral Conference tournament, face Dillingham, the Western Conference champion.
The winner faces either Mt. Edgecumbe or Eielson in the semifinals at 2:15 p.m. Friday, while the loser drops to a consolation match at 9 a.m. Friday.
With the experience of the 2010 tournament, Hammer said the Seahawks are confident and peaking at the right time.
"They know what to expect. They know the competition is going to be tough," the coach said. "Going into it last year they didn't really have the confidence that they could continue to do well, but this year they know they have the capability."
Seniors Maggie Fleming and Chelsey Clarke, and juniors Tessa Adelmann and Gretchen Lindquist, make up the core of the team.
Hammer called Fleming a do-everything player who passes with accuracy and is solid on the attack, while Clarke is an efficient blocker and smart at the net.
Adelmann does a nice job on defense, the coach added, while Lindquist provides a spark on the outside.
Perhaps the area where Hammer is most impressed, however, is at the setter position.
Senior Teal Stewart and sophomore Ashley Von Borstel share the duties, but neither of them had significant varsity experience entering the season.
That created a sharp learning curve during the early portion of the schedule.
"Setting is a tough job. The whole team needed to realize these girls were new at their job and that things would come along if they were patient," Hammer said. "I kept telling them all season to be patient because these girls would come around, and they have."
Dillingham defeated Seward in five games in the teams' only matchup this season. Also in the field is Grace Christian, the defending champion; Barrow, Valdez and Petersburg.
Seward beat Barrow about two weeks ago and twice took Grace to five games.
"I think we are right in there as far as what the competition level is," Hammer said.