The Skyview High School volleyball team went the distance.
The Panthers found themselves playing on Saturday at the Alaska School Activities Association State 4A Volleyball Championship at West High School in Anchorage.
A team has to win at least one of its first two matches to get to Saturday, and the Panthers accomplished that, defeating Juneau-Douglas in three games Friday.
But the Panthers found themselves matched up against Wasilla Saturday in a rematch of last week's Region III championship match, and the Warriors once again edged the Panthers in three games, 15-10, 15-10, 16-14.
"We were hoping the third time would be a charm," said Skyview coach Sheila Kupferschmid. "It's tough to beat a team three times. Wasilla has a good team."
The first two games of Saturday's match followed much the same course, with the Panthers and the Warriors trading points and side-outs in the early going.
Wasilla pulled in front in each game with a combination of strong serves and tough blocking at the net.
"I thought that's where Wasilla probably won the match was with the deflected blocks," Kupferschmid said. "They got their hands on the ball a lot."
Skyview made its bid to extend the match in the third game with an early edge. With the score tied at 5, Amanda Bauer put together a three-point service run, and the Panthers got their own hands on some balls at the net. Laura Tarbox and Jenny Carpenter combined on a block to pick up a point, and Tarbox notched a kill for a point to end the next rally.
"We were trying to go to our middle more to open up the outside," Kupferschmid said.
Stefanie Farris served the Warriors back into the lead (9-8) before Bauer ended the run with a kill, but Wasilla came right back with a side-out and a point served by Miranda Hocker.
Skyview scrapped its way back even -- Carpenter had another kill on Christine Colvin's serve and the Warriors had trouble receiving Colvin's next offering, tying the game at 10.
Wasilla got some big serves from Alayna Morgan and Morgan Hite to take a 14-10 lead, but an errant serve gave the Panthers a last-gasp opportunity.
Skyview's Beth Massey served for two points, and Angel Hollers staved off match point again by winning a side-out with a well-timed tip.
Wasilla won the serve right back before the Panthers could score a point, but Bauer and Tarbox teamed up on a block to win the side-out, and Carpenter finished off a rally started by Bauer's serve with a kill to pull the Panthers to within a point.
Bauer had an impressive back-row kill to win the next Skyview side-out, and Tarbox tied the game with the next serve.
Wasilla didn't let the Panthers keep their newfound momentum, and Caitlin Fisher served up two points, getting a kill by Farris to end the match.
"It was tough in the sense that we wanted to win so badly, then we lost," Tarbox said.
Skyview made the fourth-place game with a three-game win over Juneau-Douglas Friday. The Panthers beat the Crimson Bears 15-11, 15-12, 15-7.
"It was a thrill," Skyview's Shari Isaak said. "We beat them at their tournament, so we knew we could win. We went out there and did it."
The trip to the state tournament did set a new benchmark for Skyview volleyball, and Kupferschmid was quick to credit Bauer and Massey for their leadership on and off the court.
"Those two kids have been an example all season," Kupferschmid said. "It's their leadership, work ethic and commitment to the program that has turned Skyview volleyball around.
"They give the other kids a vision as to what an athlete should be."
Kupferschmid said the enthusiasm and work ethic has trickled down to every member of the team, allowing the Panthers to be in a position to compete for a state title.
"I knew I had a bunch of hard workers" Kupferschmid said of her first impression of this year's team. "You can use that work ethic.
"To their tribute, this was a team where the relationship on the team was important. They played together, and that's what made it fun. I told the kids that we could be in the championship game, but if we were fighting with each other the whole time, it wouldn't be fun.
"After this season, they know what it means to be part of a team, and that's something they'll carry with them even after they graduate."
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