Glory days - Covich covets state title she earned in volleyball

Posted: Tuesday, April 10, 2001

Laura-Beth Covich still watches the tape of Nikiski's five-game victory over Valdez in the title match of the Alaska School Activities Association State 3A Volleyball Championship last fall -- a match in which the Bulldogs recovered from what could have been a Buccaneers' knockout blow in Game 4 to win Game 5.

"It seems like so long ago," said Covich, a senior at Nikiski. "I watch it almost every week. It was so much fun. It's a nice memory to have from senior year -- to have a state title."

As the team's setter, Covich was instrumental in the victory. She was credited with 118 set-assists in the match, a culmination of five years of work at the position.

"In eighth grade, I started playing," Covich said. "I'm not very tall, so I started off setting. I liked it, stuck with it, and I've done it ever since."

"She's a hard worker and a motivator. She's very determined," said volleyball coach Cherrie Hobart-Verkuilen. "In that final game at state, she was so determined. She and Laura Berdahl worked together and refused to lose."

Laura-Beth Covich

In sports

Has played volleyball, soccer, hockey, basketball and softball while in high school.

Won a state title with the Bulldogs volleyball team last November.

Is a two-year captain on the soccer team and was the team's MVP the past two seasons.

Out of sports

Gets A's and B's in the classroom.

Has plans to attend Northern Arizona University next fall to study criminology and psychology.

That attitude carried over to the rest of the squad during the match, making for a surreal atmosphere.

"It was weird. We still talk about it," Covich said. "There was no worry, not too much excitement. We were just so focused. We got killed in the first game, but we never panicked, and never got upset.

"The last point was when the excitement broke loose. Up to that point, we just played. The team always talks about it. We still haven't figured out why -- we were just confident and calm. Nobody got worried or excited until the very last minute."

Covich's athletic interests extend far off the volleyball court. When asked to list activities on her college application, she can also include a couple seasons of basketball, a season of hockey, summers spent playing softball, and currently she's heading into her fourth year as a member of the Nikiski soccer team. And don't forget to add competitive swimming and an Elks Club Hoop Shoot title to the list.

The first outlet for Covich's athletic talents was actually the dance floor.

"The first thing I did was dance. When I got to middle school my parents gave me the choice of either ballet or soccer and track," Covich said. "I threw away the tutu and got running shoes."

Since then, her athletic career has been characterized by her work ethic.

"She's pretty determined," said Nikiski girls soccer coach Richard Kelso. "Her first couple of years, she played defense. If she was beaten, she was always the first one to get back and recover. She's a real terrier in that sense."

Covich, a two-year team captain and the team's MVP for the past two seasons, has continued to improve her skills on the pitch, earning a move from the back into the midfield.

"Midfield is where your most skilled players are," Kelso said. "She spent a couple of years disrupting offenses. With her increased skills, she's gotten better and better, and she's moved up into a creative position.

"She works hard. She's a leader by example. She doesn't like to be beaten. She's determined, and I think kids respect that."

Covich, who took up soccer in middle school, said the switch to midfield suits her.

"I like it there -- I get to play with the ball more," Covich said. "It's a lot harder than defense. There's more running, but I like it better because I have a chance to score."

Covich has two goals to her credit -- one she notched as freshman playing forward in the closing minutes of a match Nikiski was winning handily, and the other from the penalty spot last season.

Covich's mother, Susan, said the determination that has helped her daughter reach her goals runs in the family.

"That's a Stevens trait, I'd say," Susan said, referring to her side of the family, "although her dad (David) learned a long time ago that it takes hard work to succeed."

Covich has been able to attain her goals in the classroom as well. She earns A's and B's and said her grade point average is better than 3.5. She has plans to attend Northern Arizona University next fall to study criminology and psychology.

Covich said that watching TV crime dramas -- a family pastime -- has fostered her interest in forensics.

"I love cop shows. Law and Order is my favorite show," Covich said.

With most of her required courses already out of the way, Covich is working toward graduating with honors from Nikiski and is taking her calculus and advanced placement English classes this spring.

Graduation promises to be a special event for Covich as her grandfather -- Sen. Ted Stevens -- has plans to be in attendance.

"We had to ask him months and months ago because he's so busy," Covich said. "He has to come now, because he's speaking."

Covich probably won't be playing intercollegiate volleyball next season at Northern Arizona. The Lumberjacks are an NCAA Division I team. Covich said she talked with the coach, and while she was polite, Covich said that unless she was 6-foot-5, she'd have to wait until next year's open tryouts.

Instead, she'll be able to participate in intramural and club volleyball and softball.

Either way, she won't stray too far from athletics, which have been a huge part of her high school career.

"It's groomed her leadership skills," Susan said. "She's always been a natural leader. Sports has been good for learning the responsibilities of being in a leadership role."

"I'm glad I had a chance to experience the atmosphere of athletics," Covich said. "It's just who I am. I can't just sit around. There's so many friends I've played with. I met a lot of people playing sports."

"I'm proud of the young woman she's grown into," Hobart-Verkuilen said. "She's the type of individual that will make good things happen for herself, and she won't be deterred by the fact that it might take some hard work."



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