WASILLA — Here we go again.
Just as it did in last week's Cook Inlet Conference tournament, the South volleyball team took control of the Class 4A state volleyball tournament Friday, downing Dimond in a semifinal match to remain the only undefeated team in a double-elimination tournament.
Friday's 25-22, 25-13, 25-17 win earned the Wolverines a spot in Saturday's championship match and sent Dimond to the losers bracket, where it will need a win to earn the second spot in the final and another shot at South.
The defending state champion Wolverines hope for a different fate than last week, when they failed to hold off Dimond in the CIC championship match and lost the if-necessary game that followed.
If Friday's solid play was any indication, South is on the right track.
"I think for us it's all finally coming together at the right time," South sophomore Shelby Little said. "I think both of the teams played great. You could tell by some of the scores we were neck-and-neck most of the time, but I think this is by far our best game of the season."
In a match featuring the two teams that have won the last seven state championships, Dimond struggled to get its bearings, falling behind 12-8 in the first set before clawing back to tie it 14-14 on a Leah Swiss ace. South kept the pressure on with strong play at the net, however, and pulled away.
"I thought South did a wonderful job taking us out of our system," Dimond coach Kim Lauwers said. "They whupped us."
South jumped to a 9-6 lead in the second set, taking advantage of some Lynx errors. By the time Mikayla Sweet ripped a kill into the center of Dimond's backcourt, South led 20-11. South closed the set with two of the last three points coming on soft dumps from Little (11 kills), a shot that caused problems for Dimond all night.
"We've been working on that all season," Little said. "If I can't put it down, just get them out of system and that just worked tonight."
Little also contributed seven blocks to go with Mikayla Sweet's 16 kills and 17 digs. Morgan Hooe dished 45 assists for the Wolverines, and Christa Leader generated 22 digs.
Dimond will play the winner of a 10 a.m. loser-out match between Juneau and Palmer. The team that reaches the title match will need to beat South to force an if-necessary set to 30 points.
If Dimond reaches the final, it will set up the fourth tournament meeting between Dimond and South in nine days.
"We're not even looking ahead right now," Lauwers said. "We'll get 'em back to the hotel and feed 'em and get to sleep and get here early and see who we're gonna play."
South and Dimond have ruled the state tournament the past seven years. South won three straight titles from 2005-07, and Dimond won three straight from 2008-10 before losing in last season's finale to a South team that didn't lose a set all season.
Dimond's only two losses this season have come to South in the semifinal matches of the last two tournaments, so the Lynx are heading into Saturday with some confidence.
"I think tomorrow will bring us closer together and we should come back," Dimond's Sierra Afoa said. "South obviously is a great team, so we're gonna have to play as hard as possible."
Reach Jeremy Peters at firstname.lastname@example.org or 257-4335.