Last week was the week for plates piled high with food. This week is the week for heaping helpings of volleyball.
The 10-team Borealis Conference Volleyball Tournament got under way Thursday at Cook Inlet Academy. The tournament is double elimination, so there could be as many as 19 matches played at CIA before the action is all over Saturday.
Up for grabs is the conference championship and three berths in the Class 1-2-3A West state volleyball tournament starting Dec. 8 at Dimond High School in Anchorage.
The busiest day of the tournament will be today, when nine matches are scheduled. The competition starts at 9 a.m. and the last match is scheduled for 9 p.m. The day could actually be much shorter or much longer than that, because each match will follow 20 minutes after the completion of the previous match.
If the first day of the tournament and the regular season are any indication, Friday could be a very long day of volleyball. Many teams in the conference are even and that could lead to a lot of long matches. Thursday, two five-game matches and a four-game match led to the final match starting about an hour late.
In the regular season, defending conference champion Kenny Lake finished with a 13-0 record to earn the top seed. After that, though, there was not a lot of separation as No. 2 Ninilchik was 10-4, No. 3 Nikolaevsk was 9-4, No. 4 Seldovia was 10-6, No. 5 Susitna Valley was 8-5 and No. 6 Tok was 9-6.
Rounding out the field is No. 7 Lumen Christi at 4-9, No. 8 Tri-Valley at 3-11, No. 9 Nenana at 2-8 and No. 10 Cook Inlet Academy at 0-15.
Thursday, all the results went according to seed. Tri-Valley defeated Nenana 25-15, 25-13, 25-21 and Lumen Christi defeated Cook Inlet Academy 25-12, 25-8, 25-12. CIA’s program is in its sixth year and this is the first time the Eagles have hosted the conference tournament.
Tri-Valley then threw a scare into Kenny Lake, losing 22-25, 21-25, 25-19, 25-10, 15-7. Seldovia came back for a 16-25, 25-17, 26-24, 25-19 victory over Susitna Valley, while Nikolaevsk recovered for a 25-21, 26-24, 20-25, 21-25, 15-5 victory over Tok.
Ninilchik, which has qualified for state the past two years, concluded Thursday’s play with a 25-12, 25-8, 25-18 victory over Lumen Christi.
The Wolverines, who won the conference title two years ago, have their work cut out for them if they want to advance to state this year. Ninilchik lost to Kenny Lake during the regular season and split with Seldovia, Nikolaevsk and Susitna Valley.
Ninilchik coach Mary Clock said that her team is peaking at the right time, though. Clock said Ninilchik didn’t play its best match Thursday, but also said that concentration was hard to keep against Lumen Christi, which still has a very young program.
“We made a lot of service errors,” Clock said. “We have to fix those tomorrow. Nikolaevsk also does a lot of hitting at the net, so we need to play well at the net.”
Towering junior Jennifer Erickson should help at the net. Erickson separated her right shoulder early in the season, but she is rounding back into form after that injury. Clock also said junior Krista Leman has been improving a lot as an attacker in the last couple of weeks. Finally, Clock said Heidi Skjold gives her team a nice weapon from the service line. Skjold had 14 service points Thursday.
“The other nice thing is we’re deep,” Clock said. “If some of our other players are struggling, I’ve got some sophomores I can put in.”
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