Dimond sweeps Grace in front of a high-energy crowd

jpeters@adn.comSeptember 3, 2013 

It was only an early season exhibition volleyball match, but the crowd at Grace Christian was fired up to watch Dimond drop the Grizzlies in three sets Tuesday night.

"It was awesome," said Dimond's Chrisalyn Johnson. "Grace Christian's crowd and DHS' crowd, they were too pumped, and I love it."

With one side of the gym filled nearly to capacity, fans for both Grace and Dimond rocked the house with stomping feet and classic sports chants, hitting a level of exuberance usually reserved for the biggest of events.

The excitement is understandable, considering both teams are perennial contenders in the state tournament, Grace in Class 3A and Dimond in Class 4A. Dimond won its second title in three seasons last fall, and Grace has reached the state final in each of the last three seasons, winning it all in 2010.

Dimond got stronger as Tuesday's match progressed, cruising 25-21, 25-10, 25-15.

"Today wasn't our best," said Grace senior Heather Green, who finished with a match-high nine kills. "We had trouble with serve-receive, but they were able to control it, and if you get a good pass, you can always get a good hit. That's volleyball, right there."

The match started with two killer hits. Dimond's Leah Swiss ripped a thundering shot for the opening point, and Green answered for Grace with a vicious spike to tie it 1-1.

The first set was close in the early going, but Dimond stretched its lead to 24-15 to ignite the crowd's most energetic outbursts. Grace fended off seven set points before finally succumbing. The second and third sets were a bit more one-sided, with the Lynx racing to early leads and closing strong.

Swiss, Johnson and Royhn Huss each finished with six kills for the Lynx, Allie McDonnell dished 12 assists and Jenna Mixson recorded nine assists. Swiss and Johnson were both big on defense as well, coming up with 11 and eight digs, respectively.

Kinley Hickok did a nice job defending the net for Grace, putting up six blocks. Green added four blocks, six digs and a pair of aces for the Grizzlies.

Dimond was coming off a big tournament victory at last weekend's Chugiak Invitational and Huss said the team came in a little fatigued and sluggish after a day off Monday but was energized by the spirited crowd.

"I think our team really enjoys a crowd," she said. "At our away games, we usually never have that much of a crowd."

Tuesday's endowment match was the first Grace has hosted against a Class 4A team and was the first home match of the season. There was a lot of anticipation, Grace coach Valerie Steele said, but she didn't think nerves played a role. Players from each team are familiar with one another from club-team play, and Steele said many of them were hugging each other and talking prior to the match. Steele credited Grace athletic director Pete Johnson with coming up with the idea for the exhibition and said its something Grace would like to do again.

"It's a new thing, and I think it's good," Steele said. "They beat us, but I think the girls had fun. It was fast, and I think these girls really like fast."

Reach Jeremy Peters at jpeters@adn.com or 257-4335.


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