South holds off West in CIC volleyball tourney

Jeremy Peters

The first upset of the Cook Inlet Conference volleyball tournament appeared to be in the making Thursday night at Service High.

Third-seeded West took the first set against second-seeded South, but the Wolverines rallied to win 19-25, 25-9, 25-16, 25-11 and clinch one of three CIC berths in next week's state tournament.

"After the first game, we needed to want it," said South junior Sierra Avery, who finished with 10 kills and was named player of the match. "When we lost, it motivated us. I think we kind of underestimated them."

South will play top-seeded Dimond in Friday's late winners bracket match in a rematch of the last three Class 4A state title matches. The only teams still undefeated in the tournament, South and Dimond can finish no worse than third in the double-elimination event that awards state tournament berths to the top three finishers.

"West gave us a fight, but we know Dimond's gonna fight harder," Avery said. "We're definitely pumped up for the game. We gotta keep our energy up."

West drops into the losers bracket to play fifth-seeded Service on Friday and can battle back into the tournament final with three straight victories. East, which swept Bartlett in a loser-out match Thursday, will face Chugiak in a Friday loser-out match. Whichever one of those teams -- West, Service, East and Chugiak -- gets two more wins will claim the CIC's final state berth.

West's dynamite start Thursday included a 12-3 run to open the match and a 19-9 lead later in the first set. Ashley Tua's 12 kills led West, which got 26 assists from Anne Vollertsen and nine digs from Diana Lobontiu.

The momentum turned dramatically in South's favor in the second set. The Wolverines raced to a 13-3 lead and won the set before the Eagles could notch a 10th point. West bounced back to open the third set with a 4-2 run, but South caught fire again and carried the strong play into the fourth and final set.

"We lost our aggressiveness," West coach Mike Vincent said. "We like to match up with big teams like South. We think we're physical enough to do that and we proved that in the first set."

South, propelled by 43 assists from Kayla Sims, put together a consistent game plan that was tough to overcome, Vincent said. Holly Morehouse added 10 kills to the South attack, with Tatum Upchurch smacking eight and Shelby Little hitting for seven to go with two blocks.

West emptied the bench and tried everything to regain the spark from the first set, Vincent said, but he thinks the match served as a great learning experience and will make the Eagles more prepared if they get another shot at South.

For now, the Eagles are glad to still be alive.

"That's the beauty of double elimination," Vincent said. "We gotta come out tomorrow night, clear our heads and take care of business with Service. Service is probably the hottest team in the region at the end of the regular season."

Friday's winners bracket match between Dimond and South is one between two powerhouse programs. Since 2005, the Class 4A state champion has been South or Dimond, with each team winning four titles. Dimond won it all last season and South won it in 2011. Dimond won both meetings between the teams this season.

"It'll be a good one and it'll be a packed house," South coach Rachael Knecht said. "We'll give 'em a run for their money, I hope."

East 3, Bartlett 0

Taria Page slammed 15 kills and Sydney Smith added 12 to lead East to a sweep of Bartlett.

Nadia Frank-Macon supplied four blocks for East in the 25-13, 25-18, 25-20 victory.

The loss bounced Bartlett from the tournament.

CIC volleyball
At Service High

Thursday's results
East 3, Bartlett 0
South 3, West 1

Friday's matches
4 p.m. -- East vs. Chugiak
5:45 p.m. -- West vs. Service
7:30 p.m. -- South vs. Dimond