Scouts in the house
Sitting in the middle of the bleachers at Chugiak High on Friday was UAA volleyball coach Chris Green, playing the role of scout.
Green doesn't always get to attend the state tournament, but since UAA is playing matches at home this week, he made his way over after the Seawolves finished practice. In years he isn't able to attend, Green sends an assistant to the scout the state tournament, but he prefers to attend himself.
"It's great to see them play live action, to see the interaction with teammates, how they fare against competition, if they're stressed, stuff like that," Green said. "It's important for us to recruit the best players in the state."
Seven players on UAA's roster are from Alaska -- Anchorage's Morgan Hooe, Katelynn Zanders and Sarah Johnson, Kodiak's Maureen Sabado, Fairbanks' Julia Mackey, Palmer's Siobhan Johansen and Juneau's Chelsea Peterson.
Green is already familiar with the skill set of many of Alaska's high school players, because many come to UAA camps in the off-season. The state tournament gives him a chance to see them in the most pressure-packed environment a high school player faces.
"It's nice to see what type of player they are, beside the skills," he said.
It's hard not to notice that each team at the state tournament has one player who wears a different colored jersey than everyone else.
For those who aren't volleyball aficionados, that player is called a libero, and she is a defensive specialist who needs to stand out from the rest so referees can keep tabs on her.
The libero is not allowed to hit a ball in front of the line that runs across the court a few from the net. Teams can only designate one libero per set, and she can only serve in place of one player during that set. This prevents the libero from being a permanent server.
A good libero can turn the tide in a match, said Chugiak coach Bobbi Mason, because they thwart an opponent's best attack attempts while simultaneously sparking the offense with their passing.
The libero position was introduced to high school volleyball less than 10 years ago as a way to help speed up the game and make it more spectator friendly, Mason said. Having a good defender on the floor at all times prevents short points and creates longer rallies.
"Some of the rules that have been introduced in recent years, I'm not too crazy about," Mason said. "But this rule is one I really like."
Green goes to college
Heather Green, who is playing in her fourth straight state volleyball tournament for Grace Christian, will sign a National Letter of Intent on Monday to play for Cornerstone University in Grand Rapids, Mich. Cornerstone is a four-year NAIA school.
The 5-foot-11 Green said she will likely be an outside hitter on a team full of 6-footers, but she could move around and play other positions.
"I'm very versatile, so I can play wherever (coach Ryan Campbell) puts me," Green said. "He's a really good coach and he knows how to make a team better, so I'm excited."
Green said her goal since she was a freshman was to play Division I volleyball and she looked into playing for Central Arkansas, but chose Cornerstone in part because of how much she liked her visit to the campus.
"It was like Alaska, except no mountains," she said.
Green helped the Grizzlies win the 2010 state title. Grace made the state title match the last two seasons as well, losing to Mt. Edgecumbe both times.
Still to come...
Saturday's championship matches will signal the end of the volleyball season for players in Anchorage and those at Alaska's bigger schools. But there is still more to come, from the little schools.
The Class 2A and Mixed Six state tournaments are Dec. 12-14 at Dimond High. The Mixed Six tournament is for tiny schools that can't field all-girls teams, so they field coed teams instead. Eight teams will compete in the Class 2A tournament and nine will compete in the Mixed Six.