The Dimond-Service Volleyball Tournament took place Friday and Saturday in Anchorage. Twenty teams participated. Seward, Nikiski and Kenai played against schools they don't normally face, and their coaches were generally pleased with the results.
The 20 teams played in five pools, with four teams in each. The results of Friday's two-game matches determined which pool a team would play in Saturday. The top eight teams played in gold pool A or B. The next eight teams played in silver pool A or B, and the remaining four played in bronze pool A or B. Round-robin play determined which teams would participate in the tournament playoffs.
Seward played Chugiak, Valdez and Bartlett Friday. The Seahawks split the game with Chugiak and won both games against Valdez and Bartlett, earning first place for the pool and earning status as the only Class 3A team to make it to the gold pool Saturday,
"That was really neat," Seward Coach Angela Hammer said. "That was our goal ... to get in with the strongest competition possible.
Seward played in gold pool B Saturday morning against Chugiak, Palmer and East. The team split with Chugiak again, with Chugiak winning the first game 15-10 and Seward winning the second 15-12. The Seahawks lost both games to Palmer, 15-9 and 15-12, but "we played right with them," Hammer said. She said she was pleased to see the girls continuing to play well enough to compete with Chugiak.
"The second game (against Palmer) told me that we were at that level," she said.
Hammer said the Palmer girls, especially a large middle player, were very intimidating. Palmer scored four or five points right away.
Hammer said that once the team got over its initial surprise, however, it played well.
"We did just fine," she said. "I thought we did pretty good playing against a team of that caliber.
"Palmer's obviously one of the toughest 4A teams in the state, so that was exciting."
The Seahawks faced East in the third match. East won the first game 15-13, and Seward won the second game 15-12.
The Seahawks faced Service in the tournament for third place overall. Service won the first game 15-9, the second game 15-10 and the fourth game 15-1.
"My girls came into that game knowing we could play with them," Hammer said, "but they were tired."
The first game started out with Service scoring a lot of points before the Seahawks managed to narrow the gap. In the second game Seward played more aggressively, and neither team scored for some time. Seward ultimately lost that game but won the third 15-11.
"Winning that game was exciting," Hammer said.
Hammer said that by the last game the team was tired and unable to capitalize on its serves. Still, the girls displayed determination, she said.
"I could tell that they were tired," Hammer said, "but they never stopped trying."
She said she values the experience the team gained playing Service.
"They learn more losing to a team like that than they do by beating a lesser team in three (games)," she said.
Kenai played Lathrop, East and Grace Friday. The Kardinals lost both games to East and Lathrop and split the match with Grace. The team played in the bronze pool Saturday, winning both games against West and Susitna Valley and losing both games against Bartlett. In the tournament playoffs, Kenai played Ketchikan. Kenai lost both games and placed "somewhere near the bottom" of the tournament, Kenai coach Vanessa Gabel said.
Gabel said that in the game against Su-Valley "the team played really strong." She said the players connected well on their attacks.
Gabel specifically praised Shamra Bauder for her consistency in serve receives. She also said that all the coaches voted on which players performed best on other teams. The coaches voted Erica Shinn and Laura Rhyner the best players on the Kardinals.
Hammer said Rhyner "had some really strong, powerful hits at the net."
Nikiski played Anchorage Christian Schools Thursday in three games. The scores of those games were 15-0, 15-0, and 15-2. Laura Berdahl had six kills, and Mindy Cason and Karen Rabung each had four kills.
The Bulldogs finished second in their pool Friday after losing both games to Palmer and winning both games against Ketchikan and West. On Saturday the team split with Juneau, winning one game 15-9 and losing the other 15-13. Nikiski then played region opponents Heritage and Grace, defeating both.
Having finished first in that pool, the Bulldogs played Valdez in two games that resulted in victories for Nikiski. Nikiski won the first game 17-15 and the second game 16-14.
Nikiski then played East for first place in the Red Division. East won, and Nikiski placed sixth in the tournament.
"It was a great weekend," said Nikiski coach Cherrie Hobart-Verkuilen. Playing for three days "was great practice for us," she said, noting that the upcoming regional and state tournaments will both last three days.
"We worked on some things," she said. "It's my hope that it's the beginning of something good, not the end of something better.
"The kids exceeded every goal I had for them this weekend."
She had specific praise for Kassie Thomson, who played as a substitute for Ashley Gillaspie, who had jammed her fingers.
She said Thomson allowed the team to continue to perform as well as it had been.
"That's what a good sub will do," Hobart-Verkuilen said.
Nikiski returns to Anchorage next weekend to play Heritage on Friday and Grace on Saturday.
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