Surviving in the state tournament long enough to be playing on Saturday is one thing. Making an appearance in the state championship game on Saturday night is quite another.
The Skyview High School volleyball team capped a remarkable run with a four-game loss to Wasilla in the title match of the Alaska School Activities Association State 4A Championship Saturday at West High School in Anchorage.
"I'm just very pleased we were able to really compete with Wasilla in this championship game," Skyview coach Sheila Kupferschmid said. "In my mind, this just caps an outstanding season. I've got a bunch of overachievers, and they proved it again tonight."
Skyview took the first game of the championship match, coming from behind to beat the Warriors 15-9. Wasilla was able to maintain an edge -- a very slight one for much of the time -- to close out the match and clinch the state title, 15-12, 15-3 and 15-9.
"We wanted to leave it all out there and not have any regrets," said Skyview's Angel Hollers. "We gave it all we had. We gave them a game. I'm pretty satisfied with state runner-up."
The Panthers advanced to the title match after defeating Juneau-Douglas in four games in Friday's semifinal, 10-15, 15-2, 15-6 and 15-2.
"We came out an lost that first set, but then the kids were able to hit their spots," Kupferschmid said. "I had the kids go down the line. I thought that was vulnerable.
"Jenny Carpenter tore up the line. That's what makes her a threat offensively -- she's able to hit her spots, and she did it against Juneau."
Kupferschmid the seeds for Skyview's run to the state championship game were sown during the third-place match at the Region III/4A tournament last week in Wasilla.
"Regions really grew up this team because we had to battle Kodiak," Kupferschmid said. "It made the kids tougher. The reason we're state runners-up is because of mental toughness."
The Panthers opened up the title match with a 4-0 hole in the first game, but began to climb back into the game after a quick timeout.
Christine Hayes served for Skyview's first three points of the game, getting a pair of blocks by Laura Tarbox and a kill by Carpenter at the net.
Tarbox kept the momentum swinging Skyview's direction, serving for five points -- two of them on blocks and one on a kill by Carpenter -- to give the Panthers an 8-7 lead.
Skyview kept the pressure on through the rest of the game. Carpenter served for two points, including a kill on a crafty second-hit tip by Christina Colvin.
Wasilla came up with two points to pull to within one, 10-9, but Jessika Truesdell served five straight points, three of them ending on blocks by Tarbox, to secure the win in the first game.
Wasilla's front row started taking control of the match in the second game, but the Panthers were able to stay with the Warriors thanks to some excellent defensive work from Shari Isaak, Hayes and Truesdell. Stacia Pfaffe was able to make some big plays at the net, and Laurel Creel and Brandi Aldridge made some contributions off the bench.
The Panthers couldn't get any momentum back for the third game, but matched Wasilla point for point to start game four.
Wasilla inched out to a 10-6 lead, but three points from the service line by Hollers reeled the Warriors back to within a point.
Wasilla finished off the match with some big hits from the front row, though, clinching the state title with a kill by Lindsey Shogren on the final rally of the game.
"Nobody expected us to go anywhere at state," Tarbox said. "We just came out and played every point. This is where we ended up, and it's a great place to be if you ask me."
"I think we surpassed the expectations we had of ourselves," Colvin said. "That's what makes us so happy. We extended our season as long as we could."
In fact, Kupferschmid said that when she asked her players at the beginning of the season if they could picture themselves playing for the state championship, they just laughed and said no.
"I think this team kept on improving match after match," Kupferschmid said. "I think they peaked when they got to the state tournament. They didn't fold, and they gave Wasilla a battle.
"I hope it changes the mental attitude (and proves that) kids are capable of doing something they didn't think was possible."
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