Nikiski's Sherra Pritchard, left, tries to block the ball during a Class 3A state volleyball tournament game against Grace Christian in Anchorage on Friday.
AP Photo/Al Grillo
Hannah Thompson believes it began with her.
“I think I’m the one who started it all,” the senior said.
Kyla Jorgensen attributes it to her cousin, Flossie.
“She was the one who started it all,” Kyla said.
Either way, it caught on. And it wasn’t an attitude or a rally more like an illness.
A cold to be exact.
“About 3/4 of our team is sporting a cold right now,” Nikiski volleyball coach Bruce King said after his team swept Delta Junction, 25-15, 25-22, 25-15, Saturday to earn fourth place in the 3A state tournament at West High in Anchorage. “They have been doing a good job trying to stay rested and take medication and stuff. But yeah, a lot of them showed up sick this morning.”
Nikiski's Hannah Thompson spikes the ball during the fourth-place match at the Class 3A state volleyball tournament in Anchorage on Saturday.
AP Photos/Al Grillo
It certainly didn’t look that way.
Barring a minor run by Delta near the end of the middle frame, the Bulldogs (18-2) controlled the entire match, at one time winning eight consecutive points in the first set and seven straight in the second.
“We knew that if we just took care of the ball on our side and passed well, that we would get plenty of swings,” King explained. “When we went on those big runs, it was because we passed well and we dug balls gave ourselves opportunities to get swings.”
Coughing, sneezing and sniffling, Nikiski players actually served their way to victory Saturday.
Senior Kyla Jorgensen who had 16 digs and was named as Nikiski’s player of the match sparked the Bulldogs with seven solid serves throughout an 8-0 run that closed out the first game and added three more successful serves during a four-point rally in the middle of the third.
Afterwards, she could barely speak.
“I’ve been sick for a while now,” she said. “I’m tired. My body can’t go anymore.”
Nikiski's Danielle Bower returns the ball during the Class 3A state volleyball tournament in Anchorage on Friday.
AP Photo/Al Grillo
“We had to sub Kyla out,” King said. “She was so sick she couldn’t move on the court.”
Thompson teed off seven times in a row in the second, turning what was once a 15-14 Bulldogs’ lead into a seven-point advantage.
“I just tried to mix it up with different serves, between a top spin and a floater, because once you pass one, it’s hard to pass the other,” said Thompson, who collected 13 kills, 11 digs and six blocks.
But it was the serving of senior Flossie Jorgensen, who served on 11 Bulldogs points, that seemed to mystify not only the Huskies, but her own team as well.
“We haven’t been able to figure out Flossie’s serve all season. She’ll step back to the serving line and give it 15, 20 serves that are unpredictable, but hard to handle. And then, out of nowhere, there will be one that’s just in the stands or something,” King said with a grin. “We don’t even know where it’s going when Flossie serves the ball.”
Her teammates coined it their “secret weapon,” one that some say anchored the rally which brought them back from two games down against Monroe in the opening round Thursday, only to lose in five games.
“The team calls it the little secret weapon. Because it’s not hard at all. I don’t know why it’s effective,” she said. “We scrimmaged Skyview and they even said, ‘That’s a crazy serve.’ My serve has not gotten any better really. It’s the same. It’s strange.”
It wasn’t all serving, however.
Kyla Jorgensen seemed to be setting the ball all over the place and whenever Thompson, Sherra Pritchard or Clare Bennett had opportunities, they capitalized.
With the score knotted at 6 in the first, Kyla Jorgensen set Thompson up for a kill that landed just inside the right line. Owning a 15-13 edge later in the set, Thompson’s first two kill attempts were dug out but she finally slammed it home en route to the 25-15 win.
“When the ball gets to Kyla, Kyla has amazing sets,” said senior Kim Copeland, “and pretty much whoever Kyla sets it to will get a kill with an amazing pass an amazing set.”
That momentum collapsed in the second when, after going back-and-forth, Delta took the lead. It wasn’t for long, though, as the Bulldogs picked up 10 of the next 11 points for a 21-14 advantage. But the Huskies didn’t quit, rallying to make it 21-18 and then 24-22, but picked up a net violation that put Nikiski in front 2-0.
“I just think that sometimes when we come out and dominate a team in the first game, we tend to lose our focus just a little bit and it only takes a little bit in volleyball,” King said. “But you have to give the other team credit. They picked it up in game two as well.”
The final game played out much like the first, with Thompson scoring three early points for a 7-3 lead.
Climbing back into it, Delta chopped the deficit to 11-9, but Pritchard who had seven blocks answered with four points in a six-point span and added another one late to help finish off the match.
“Sherra, she’s a good player. She’s always been a good player,” said Flossie Jorgensen, who recorded five blocks. “But once she gets pumped and once she’s like, ‘Oh, I really want to hit,’ and she starts swinging, there’s nothing stopping her. She’ll keep going.”
Also for Nikiski, sophomore Danielle Bower and junior Rachel Bogard had 12 digs apiece.
After a disappointing first-round loss, the Bulldogs responded with 109 digs during a 25-22, 22-25, 25-13, 25-20 victory over Grace Christian on Friday and completed their tournament run by winning eight of their last 10 games. On Friday, Thompson had 34 digs, 15 kills and eight blocks, Bennett netted 15 digs and nine kills, Kyla Jorgensen collected 12 digs and 12 assists, Pritchard had 12 blocks, Copeland picked up 11 digs and Flossie Jorgensen added eight blocks.
Entering the tournament with expectations of skipping town with the title, the girls agreed it was tough returning to play Friday after the setback on Thursday.
“It’s hard. It was a heartbreak on Thursday. And it’s hard to recover from that,” Thompson said. “But I’m glad not to go out. I’m glad we won.”
Copeland expressed similar sentiments.
“We were just kind of bummed,” she said. “It was tough because we realized that we really wanted it, and that we couldn’t have it after that first game.”
“It is pretty nice to end the season in a winning way,” Bennett added.
Regardless of the outcome, King was pleased with his team’s perseverance.
“I think that there’s a lot of pride in this group of girls. They always are out to play their best, every match,” he said. “Even on Thursday, they executed our match plan very well. They just came up short. The last two days, they executed our game plan and basically dominated the two teams.
“I am pleased,” King added. “I’ve been a huge fan of this team all season long.”
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