WASILLA — There were sequences Friday in the Class 3A volleyball semifinal at Menard Sports Complex when it was easy to see Mt. Edgecumbe's kills develop long before the ball was spiked to the floor.
The Braves, who are trying to defend the school's first title from last season, controlled the ball and controlled the match, accelerating past Grace Christian 25-22, 25-15, 25-19 to claim a spot in Saturday's state final.
"They got some momentum," Grace coach Valerie Steele said. "The thing is, we know exactly what they do. I think everybody knows exactly what they do and it's just a matter of us executing the plan."
Deenaalee Hodgdon and Taryn White played the role of sledgehammer for the Braves, each recording 16 kills. Mariah Martin orchestrated the Mt. Edgecumbe offense with 45 assists, but coach Richard Calkins said statistics don't tell the whole story.
"It was total team effort," he said. "We always have the same two girls lead us in kills and a lot of teams equate that to our success, but our girls know it's an overall team thing."
Grace, led by Nicole Weisenfelder's 12 kills, 12 assists and seven digs, came out on fire, Calkins said, and he was proud of the way his team weathered the early storm. Grace's Heather Green also reached double-digit kills with 10 to go with 22 digs.
White put Mt. Edgecumbe up 20-19 in the first set on a crushing cross-court kill, sparking a 3-0 run that helped close the first set. The Braves really started cooking during the end of the second set and kept the momentum with leads of 12-6 and 21-12 in the third. The match ended on another hard cross-court shot from White.
Grace, which lost to Mt. Edgecumbe in last season's final and beat the Braves in the 2010 final, might get another shot at executing its plan against the Braves.
The tournament's double-elimination format, new this year, provides a restful advantage for Mt. Edgecumbe, the lone undefeated team. The Braves only have to play one more full match, but Saturday will be a busy day for teams on the other side of the bracket. The winner of a 10 a.m. loser-out match between Monroe and Skyview will play Grace for a spot in the 3 p.m. title match, where it will need to win to force an if-necessary tiebreaking set to 30 points.
Calkins said the Braves have done a great job of maintaining focus throughout the tournament so he doesn't foresee any problems with waiting until 3 p.m. for the title match. No matter which team fights back for the remaining spot in the final, the Braves will keep the same mentality they had Friday.
"We had so much intensity," Hodgdon said. "The whole entire time we were excited. The whole entire energy in the room was ecstatic."
Reach Jeremy Peters at firstname.lastname@example.org or 257-4335.