Earlier this year, Skyview High School found the majority of its sports teams placed into different conferences, due to the declining student population, which meant the Panthers volleyball team went from the Northern Lights Conference to the Southcentral Conference.
The team grabbed ahold of that opportunity by earning the Southcentral Conference championship on Saturday night in Cordova, sweeping the Nikiski Bulldogs three games to none.
Skyview grabbed game wins of 25-21, 25-19 and 25-9 to take the crown.
“I’m so proud of these kids,” Skyview coach Sheila Kupferschmid said. “It seems that they peaked at the right time, they’re playing their best at the right time. I’m happy for all the time and work they put in. That’s a lot to say about their character.”
Grace Christian took home third-place honors and the last state berth.
“I think our middles were key tonight. They had to win the net play, and they did that,” Kupferschmid said. “Marlee and Cheyanne came through and both of them really took over the match, and more than anything they pressured the Nikiski defense, and kept them off-balance, and we did amazing at controlling the ball and utilizing the ball.”
The Panthers had two players recognized on the Southcentral Conference First Team — Sam Reynolds as opposite setter, and Marlee Cunningham at middle blocker. In addition, Casey Neill was placed on the SSC Second Team as libero, and Holly Ramsell took the Good Sport Award. In addition, Homer’s Beth Trowbridge was named the SSC Coach of the Year.
Skyview’s stats tell the tale of their tournament, as Marlee Cunningham put up 14 kills, nine digs and two blocks, Cheyanne Laber had 10 kills and four blocks, Sam Reynolds had six kills, 14 points and 11 assists, and Holly Ramsell got seven kills and nine points.
Hayley Ramsell provided 18 set assists, 11 points and three blocks, libero Casey Neill had 16 digs, and Cassie McKenzie had seven digs.
“Casey controlled the back of the court,” Kupferschmid said. “She was phenomenal at passing the ball and keeping the ball in their court.”
Nikiski coach Stacey Segura was able to maintain an optimistic attitude and said she holds a lot of pride for her team.
“I’m proud of them, they came out and did very well, and they had to fight for it, and I’m actually pretty happy with second,” Segura said. “They fought for it. They know now that you can’t just come in and take first place.”
Nikiski was led by Rachel Thompson with 18 assists and 10 digs. Teammates Bailey Buchholz had 11 digs, three kills and three blocks, Taylor Calderwood notched nine kills and four digs, Sienna Wallis had nine kills and two blocks, Rebecca Krogseng put up six kills, Jody Cook got 10 digs, and Paris Davis produced 10 digs.
“Now that we’re going to state, we know what’s it’s like to lose,” Segura said. “I think they know now just how hard it will be.”
Segura said that Thompson, Buchholz and Calderwood were all named to the SSC First Team placement, while Wallis was awarded Good Sport honors.
“We have a lot of things to work on, obviously we’re going to keep seeing teams that are as good as Skyview, so we need to figure out where our holes are and where to put the ball at,” Segura said. “I think that this made the girls a little more hungry. I’m really confident about going to state.”
Kupferschmid said her team will be looking to place well at the state tournament.
“I’m just excited for that,” she said. “I think we’ll do the same thing. We’ll prepare the same way. I’m excited to play another week.”
Skyview 3, Cordova 0
The Panthers swept the host team in three games on Friday afternoon in the Southcentral Conference championships quarterfinals, with game scores of 25-12, 25-13 and 25-20.
Marlee Cunningham had seven kills, three blocks and 10 digs to lead Skyview, while teammate Holly Ramsell put up seven kills, eight points and two digs, Cheyanne Laber notched 11 kills, Sam Reynolds recorded 15 assists, six kills and six points, Hayley Ramsell had 15 set assists, 15 points and 10 service aces, and libero Casey Neill scored nine points along with 15 digs.
Skyview 3, Grace 1
Skyview beat the Grizzlies in the semifinal round on Friday to jump into Saturday’s final round match with consistent play across the team. Skyview won the first game 25-21, lost the second 26-28, and took the final two games with scores of 25-17 each.
Marlee Cunningham had 17 digs, 15 kills, eight service points and two blocks to lead the Panthers.
Holly Ramsell had 19 digs, 10 kills, 11 service points and two blocks, Cheyanne Laber got 17 kills and six blocks, Hayley Ramsell provided 27 assists and 15 service points, Sam Reynolds had 20 assists and 12 service points, and Casey Neill caught 21 digs. Skyview coach Sheila Kupferschmid said she was pleased with the performance of the team against a conference 10-0 Grace squad, and that the group is excited to play in the final game against Nikiski.
“These kids came prepared, skill-wise as well as mentally,” Kupferschmid said.
Skyview entered the final game with a 12-4 record, including the playoffs.
Nikiski 3, Houston 2
Nikiski has not played to all five games often this season, but they did it twice in Friday’s quarter- and semifinal rounds of the Southcentral Conference championships.
In the quarterfinals, the Bulldogs beat the Hawks 25-17 and 25-11 in the first two games, but Houston came back to even the match up with scores of 20-25 and 23-25, including a Houston rally in the fourth game that Nikiski coach Stacey Segura mentioned. According to her, Nikiski was leading 23-15, but the Hawks put up 10 unanswered points to win.
In the winner-take-all game, Nikiski pulled out all the stops with a 15-8 win.
Rachel Thompson had 28 assists to lead Nikiski. Bailey Buchholz had seven kills, four service aces and three blocks, Taylor Calderwood had 13 kills, Sienna Wallis notched seven blocks and four kills, and Rebecca Krogseng had three service aces.
Nikiski 3, Seward 2
In Nikiski’s semifinal match, another five game contest and the second of the day, the Bulldogs won the first game 25-22, but lost the next two with identical scores of 20-25.
Nikiski dominated the fourth game 25-13, and closed out their day with a 15-10 win in game five.
“The girls were exhausted both mentally and physically,” Nikiski coach Stacey Segura said. “The Houston game did not need to go five games. I think that they felt like since they were the number one seed, they had a chip on their shoulder, and they almost lost out on a great opportunity. It was really stressful.”
Bailey Buchholz had 16 digs, 16 kills and six blocks, and Nikiski teammate Paris Davis came up with an impressive 33 digs.
Rachel Thompson put together 29 assists and two kills, Taylor Calderwood had 13 kills and three serving aces, and Sienna Wallis had seven kills and four blocks.