Anchorage — he Dimond volleyball team hasn’t lost a match all season, and the top-seeded Lynx looked as unbeatable as ever in Thursday’s second round of the Cook Inlet Conference championship tournament at Service High.
Dimond (18-0) began with 10 unanswered points against fourth-seeded Bartlett, and although the Golden Bears played better as the match progressed, Dimond’s methodical precision led to a smooth 25-5, 25-16, 25-18 win.
“I was very, very pleased and sometimes I think it’s very hard to please me,” Dimond coach Kim Lauwers said. “We needed to start off like we did, we needed to be aggressive right from the get-go. I was really proud of my team.”
The win did two things for the Lynx: It secured them a spot in next week’s state tournament in Wasilla, and it sent them into a Friday night semifinal match against defending state champion South, which swept Chugiak in Thursday’s other quarterfinal.
“We knew this match was gonna at least get you to state,” Lauwers said. “Starting tomorrow we can start making a few more goals for the tournament.”
Dimond’s goals are bound to include beating a South team that has swept the Lynx in the last two CIC title matches as well as in last season’s state championship match. The double-elimination format allows losing teams a shot at playing their way back into the title match via the loser’s bracket, so Dimond and South could potentially meet twice this weekend.
The teams are no strangers to big matches. They have won the last seven state championships — three for Dimond and four for South — and at least one of them has reached the finals of the CIC tournament for the past seven seasons.
“I think it’s gonna be a battle,” South coach Judy Knecht said of the Friday semifinal showdown.
As big as the rivalry may seem, the Lynx aren’t getting caught up in it.
“We’re just excited to see whoever we play,” Dimond senior Bobbye Pendleton said. “Whoever we play is whoever we play. We treat every team the same way.”
Every team wants to be peaking just in time for conference and state tournament play at the end of the season, and Pendleton said Dimond is doing just that.
“We’ve been improving a lot,” she said. “We’re just connected more now.”
None of the Lynx reached double-digit kill totals in the win over Bartlett, which Lauwers said shows the team’s versatility.
Leah Swiss led the Lynx with eight kills, Tatyana Johnson hit for seven and Janelle Feller generated six kills to go with 15 assists. Anastasia LaVern-Tosi matched Fellers’ 15 assists and Aaliyah Lewis turned in 19 digs.
Swiss said Bartlett raised its level of play throughout — the Golden Bears played to a 13-13 tie in the third set before Dimond pulled away — but the experienced Lynx were prepared.
“I think our main goal is just staying together and playing every game like it’s a championship game,” Swiss said. “We have more seniors this year. We have 10 seniors. Last year we only had five.”
South 3, Chugiak 0
With 47 assists from Morgan Hooe and 14 kills from Mikayla Sweet, South looked in top form in its 25-12, 25-14, 25-6 quarterfinal sweep of Chugiak.
“We’re peaking at the right time,” said South coach Judy Knecht, whose team earned a trip to the state tournament with the win.
The Wolverines, who got 12 kills from Lauren Hoffman, nine from Holly Morehouse and seven blocks from Shelby Little, were sharp in every facet. Chugiak, meanwhile, failed to find any measure of focus.
“We didn’t show up,” Chugiak coach Bobbi Mason said. “Our biggest battle all year has been the mental game.”
McKenzie Kish led Chugiak with 15 assists and seven digs, and Rachel Topf chipped in seven digs.
Service 3, West 1
Powered by 10 kills apiece from Morgan Christy and Tayleigh Talmadge, eighth-seeded Service eliminated fifth-seeded West with a 27-25, 25-23, 18-25, 25-21 victory in a losers' bracket match.
Service's Erin Hess dished 35 assists and Jessica Brown led the defense with 25 digs.
Rebecca Jones paced the West attack with 13 kills, Jenn Evans handed out 18 assists and Diana Lobontiu totaled 24 digs.
East 3, Eagle River 1
After an ugly loss in the first set, sixth-seeded East turned its game up a notch and eliminated seventh-seeded Eagle River 10-25, 25-17, 25-23, 25-14.
The Thunderbirds didn't gain their focus until well after the start of the match, coach Jim Dooley said.
"On this level, when the teams are competitive, you gotta be ready from point one, and we weren't," he said.
East's Morgan Hill led the comeback with 13 kills, and Sydney Smith tacked on 12. Twin sisters Mafi and Falua Makihele orchestrated the offense with 36 and 34 assists, respectively. Taria Page chipped in eight kills and three blocks.
Eagle River got 15 kills and 15 digs from Tess Anderson, 11 kills and 28 digs from Morgen Wohrle and 35 assists from Elexa Walker.