Life isn't getting any easier at the Southcentral Conference volleyball tournament, which will be held at Nikiski High School on Friday and Saturday.
Last year, Cordova, riding a string of Class 1-2-3A state titles in 2005, 2006 and 2007, was welcomed into the conference, making one of the three state berths available at the conference tournament that much harder to attain.
At last year's state tournament, the conference flexed its strength as Anchorage Christian Schools took first, Grace Christian nabbed second and Cordova finished third.
This year, the going is even tougher because the conference now only gets two state berths. ACS comes into the tournament with the top seed, while Cordova has the second seed. Grace has the No. 3 seed, while Nikiski, which had a run of five straight state appearances snapped last year, is the fourth seed.
"They both have good, solid programs," Nikiski coach Amber Oliva-Douglas said of ACS and Cordova. "There's a lot of talented players in the region overall. Despite the records, the teams are all pretty evenly matched."
The Bulldogs face a tough hurdle on Friday, when they face rival and fifth-seeded Seward at 6 p.m. The winner moves on to a semifinal match against ACS, which has a first-round bye, while the loser is out of the tournament.
"The first round is an elimination round, so there is some pressure," Oliva-Douglas said. "We're hoping to get past that, then move on to the championship."
The Seahawks and Bulldogs split during the regular season. Both matches went four games.
"Our strategy is to keep the serve," Oliva-Douglas said. "Seward is a good, strong serving team, so we want to keep the ball out of their servers' hands."
Oliva-Douglas said it will take a team effort, and not heroics from a particular player, to do that.
Seward coach Angela Hammer said her team has been getting stronger and more cohesive over the last four or five matches.
"I think we need to go out and believe we can win," Hammer said. "Both teams are evenly matched. It depends on who has the right things happen."
Hammer said one of her key players will be Holly Ganser, but added serve-receive will be important. She said Seward did not return serve well in the loss to Nikiski.
"It's something we've been working on all season long," she said.
Grace Christian will meet No. 6 seed Heritage Christian in a 4 p.m. game on Friday, with the winner of that game facing Cordova in the semis.
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