With their coach wearing a red cape adorned with an "S," the South Wolverines were super on the volleyball court Saturday at Chugiak High.
The Wolverines beat Dimond in four sets to claim their second Class 4A title in three seasons. The 20-25, 25-17, 25-23, 25-22 victory included big hits, players diving to the floor and a spirited crowd supporting both teams.
South's win was the second in two days against a Dimond squad that hadn't lost a match all season until Friday's five-set semifinal loss to the Wolverines. South had lost four matches to the Lynx this season before figuring them out when it mattered most.
"Each game, we figured out more and more what they did," said South setter Kayla Sims, who dished 31 assists. "Our main focus today was to put the ball in the right-back and take their setter out of the play."
The tournament's double-elimination format, installed last season, meant Dimond had to win a noon match against Kodiak in the losers bracket to earn a spot in the 6 p.m. final. To take a second straight title, the Lynx needed to beat South in the championship match, force a tie-breaker set to 30 points and win that too.
Dimond faced the same scenario last season and pulled it off. And when the Lynx won the first set Saturday, they looked strong enough to do it again.
"I was thinking about that," said Holly Morehouse, who led South with 12 kills. "I was praying for a different outcome and it turned out perfect."
Morehouse delivered the match-winning kill and said words couldn't describe how good it felt.
A few moments earlier, Morehouse brought the entire South cheering section to its feet by giving the Wolverines a 24-21 lead with one of the most electric spikes of the night. The teams had just come out of a timeout, during which fans rocked the gym with deafening, competing chants of "DHS" and "Let's go South." Morehouse rewarded the enthusiasm with a blast right down the middle.
"Our team was very nervous going in," said Morehouse, who was named player of the match. "We buckled down and got focused. Dimond played a great game."
Dimond got 28 kills and 24 digs from Leah Swiss, 17 assists from Jenna Mixson and 28 digs from Heidi Andrus.
The Lynx were tied with South 5-5 in the second set, but that's when things started unraveling. South went on a 13-4 run and maintained a visible edge the rest of the match.
"We ran out of a little bit of energy the second part of that match," Dimond coach Kim Lauwers said. "We didn't play very good defense throughout the match, but my team has been incredible all year long."
The Lynx were shooting for what Lauwers called a triple crown, by posting the best Cook Inlet Conference record, winning the CIC tournament and winning state. Achieving the first two is still a lot to be proud of, Lauwers said, especially because the team lost 10 seniors from last season's state championship squad.
"Only two players played in this tournament last year," she said. "I'm disappointed in not getting that third crown, but I gotta focus on all the positives."
South's positives were plentiful Saturday, with players contributing from all over the court. Tatum Upchurch notched seven kills, with twins Aspen and Sierra Avery turning in 26 and 16 digs, respectively.
As for the red cape, the Wolverines presented it to coach Rachael Knecht on Saturday morning. They declared the "S," which looked very similar to the one made famous by Superman, stood for "South" and that the would bring good luck.
"They're a wacky group of kids," Knecht said.
ASAA/First National Bank
State volleyball tournament
Championship South 3, Dimond 1 (20-25, 25-17, 25-23, 25-22
Dimond 3, Kodiak 1 (25-21, 11-25, 25-15, 25-16)
Kodiak 3, Chugiak 0 (25-22, 25-18, 25-22)
Holly Morehouse, South
Mackenzie Everett, Colony
Chrisalyn Johnson, Dimond
Rachel Gregg, Chugiak
Kayla Sims, South
Macey Buresh, Palmer
Deenallee Hodgdon, West Valley
Hannah Wandersee, Kodiak
Leah Swiss, Dimond
Sierra Avery, South
Isabelle Riina, Kodiak
Rohyn Huss, Dimond