Skyview coach Sheila Kupferschmid said her team didn't perform as well as it could have.
But the Panthers still played well enough to pull off a sweep of Juneau-Douglas in the opening round of the Class 4A state volleyball tournament on Thursday afternoon at West High in Anchorage.
"I didn't think it was our best play," she said via cell phone, "but it was good enough to win the first round of the state tournament."
In their first state tournament appearance since qualifying three straight years from 2000-02, having placed fourth in 2002 and second in 2001, the Panthers rolled to a 25-23, 25-22, 25-15 win over the Crimson Bears, who were playing in their eighth straight state tourney.
"I thought they would fight a little harder in that third set," Kupferschmid said. "We did well."
Kupferschmid said nerves likely played a factor in her team's slow start, although Skyview never trailed once during the match.
"I was a little nervous as this is the kids first time at the state tournament and they were nervous and they played like it," she said. "They didn't play bad, but they didn't play their best.
"They're going to need to play their best match of the year to compete tomorrow in the semis."
Dimond, which defeated Kodiak in four games on Thursday, is Skyview's next opponent at 3:45 p.m. today.
"They're tough. They're coming in the No. 1 seed. They've got big hitters and an excellent setter," Kupferschmid said. "We're going to have to be on top of our game, but I'm excited to play them in the semifinals."
Kodiak fell to Colony in the championship match of the Northern Lights Conference tournament last weekend, while Skyview cruised to a three-game sweep of Palmer in the third-place match in earning the state berth.
The Panthers carried that momentum over to Thursday, when they captured their seventh straight game, including the final game of a five-game win over rival Soldotna in the loser's bracket of the NLC tourney and the ensuing sweep of Palmer.
In that emotional win over the Moose, which snapped their streak of 10 straight state appearances, Skyview senior hitter Missy Massey completely took over at the end, reeling off the Panthers' final four points for a total of 15 kills.
She continued her success against Juneau, recording 15 kills, while fellow senior Brittany Meyer added 12.
"My whole front line, we've got to be able to protect our back row and our defense. So my front line, they've got to be able to get their hands on the ball," Kupferschmid said, adding Juneau ran a faster offense than her team is accustomed to. "They did what we do ... they run kind of like shoot sets, keep the ball low and fast.
"They had a nice middle, who could hit right-handed and left-handed. She was pretty tough on us," she added of Kristie Ely, who was named to the all-state team last season. "She was their offense. They played good defense. Juneau fought. They fought and fought."
The Panthers also benefited from 11 digs from senior libero Jessie Bilderback and 30 assists from junior setter Casee Penrod.
"(Penrod) laid it up for my hitters and placed the ball for my hitters," Kupferschmid said. "She came through for us defensively as well as running the offense for us. She had a nice match. She is crucial to our success, as every setter is to every team."
The Panthers now turn their attention to the Lynx, a team they've never seen this year, which according to Kupferschmid, is a good thing.
"Right now they're playing inspired ball and confident ball and we don't need anything to distract them in that," she explained. "They just need to take care of themselves and not look at their opponent.
"Right now they're in a position that I don't think they ever thought they would be in."
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