Nikiski coach Amber Oliva-Douglas is embracing her team's underdog status in the Southcentral Conference volleyball tournament Friday and Saturday at Grace Christian in Anchorage.
"Being the underdog, we don't have anything to lose," the coach said. "The underdog is a nice position to be in."
At the five-team tournament, the top two teams go to state. The tournament setup is simple.
On Friday, No. 5 seed Nikiski and No. 4 seed Cordova play at 7 p.m. The loser is done. The winner faces No. 1 Grace in the semifinals at 11 a.m. Saturday. The other semifinals is between No. 2 Seward and No. 3 Anchorage Christian Schools at 1 p.m.
The two semis winners advance to state and play in the championship at 3 p.m. There is no third-place match.
The Bulldogs are 1-9 in the region, with their only win coming against ACS. Nikiski lost twice at Cordova, with both matches going to four games. Oliva-Douglas said the Bulldogs were missing outside hitter Taylor Calderwood for both matches.
"That forced us to change several positions on offense that weekend," Oliva-Douglas said. "We were playing an offense we're not used to.
"Now we have a full roster and we have everybody where they need to be. We should have a much better showing this time."
If the Bulldogs are able to take out the Wolverines, Grace will be waiting. The Grizzlies are undefeated in nontournament play this year. They recently topped Wasilla, which went 10-0 in the Northern Lights Conference.
Oliva-Douglas said the Grizzlies have the most seniors with previous varsity experience in the tournament.
"The nice thing is we have the only game Friday," Oliva-Douglas said. "We're the only ones that will get the opportunity to get the tournament jitters out."
Nikiski also is feeling good about a pair of close losses to Kodiak last weekend.
"We have a team of young girls and they really enjoyed the games on Friday and Saturday against Kodiak," Oliva-Douglas said. "They were able to record the steps of improvement they were able to make. I think they are feeling as confident heading into this weekend as they were coming out of last weekend."
The coach said the setting of Minna Bogard and Savannah Griffel will be pivotal. Beyond that, passing and not giving up free points will be critical. Oliva-Douglas also said the team has improved the placement of its spikes.
"The won-loss record doesn't matter going into region weekend," she said. "Everything culminates in one weekend, and everything can happen."
The coach also mentioned that Seward has a great chance of beating ACS and punching a ticket to state.
"I really expect Seward to have a strong tournament," she said.
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