Skyview coach Sheila Kupferschmid is convinced she had the team to beat Service Thursday in the first round of the Class 4A state volleyball tournament at West High School in Anchorage.
Defeating Service's name, however, was another matter.
The Panthers, playing in school's first-ever state volleyball match, stretched perennial power Service to the limit before succumbing 15-8, 15-9, 7-15, 12-15 and 15-6.
Skyview now falls into the fourth-place bracket, where the Panthers play Juneau-Douglas at West High today at 8 a.m.
"I think the biggest obstacle for our girls was overcoming the name of Service," Kupferschmid said. "We came out real tight and a little flat. They were just tight."
Service, which has taken two of the past three state crowns, took advantage of Skyview's slow start by rolling to victories in the match's first two games.
Then a combination of things happened to turn the tide in Skyview's favor.
The first element sparking the Panthers is one most wouldn't expect considering Skyview, with a student body of about 600, is a good three hours from West on the road, while Service, with over 2,300 students, is a simple drive across Anchorage from West.
"I was pleased with Skyview's support," Kupferschmid said. "We had a bus bring a lot of the fans up here and that helped carry the kids, especially when they got down 2-0 and could have folded.
"But they knew they were in front of their family, their classmates and peers, so they had to do something. I think we actually had more people there than Service."
The other thing that tipped the scales in Skyview's favor after the second game was a strategy change by Kupferschmid. In the first two games, Service was beating the Panthers on a lot of tips, so Kupferschmid dropped an outside hitter back from the net and went to one blocker.
"It seemed like Service wasn't hitting the ball," Kupferschmid said. "They just kept tipping and we weren't adjusting to it.
"When we went to the single middle blocker, that's when it seemed like the match changed momentum."
Once Skyview got its defense set, it rolled to victories in the third and fourth games of the match. The Panthers were solid on offense all evening with senior Amanda Bauer knocking down 21 kills and fellow senior Beth Massey putting away 12 kills.
The Panthers also managed to overcome an injury to Christine Hayes, the junior defensive specialist who turned an ankle in practice Wednesday. Sophomore Jenny Carpenter filled in for Hayes.
"(Carpenter) did a great job, and it was a position she hadn't played before," Kupferschmid said. "But would Hayes have made a difference? Yeah. I think she would have."
In the pivotal fifth game Skyview had some defensive mishaps that allowed Service to move on to defend its title.
"I think the kids are playing their best ball of the year," Kupferschmid said. "We got a lot of compliments for taking Service to five games, but I'm still disappointed in the loss.
"I feel we definitely were a better team."
The Panthers defeated Juneau earlier in the year down in Juneau to take a tournament the Crimson Bears were hosting.
"I'd like to beat them again," Kupferschmid said. "I believe in these kids."
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