Although South managed to sweep Kodiak on Thursday in the second round of the Class 4A state volleyball tournament, the 28-26, 25-21, 25-21 victory was no picnic.
Each set was close throughout and could have gone either way.
Led by Holly Morehouse's nine kills, the Wolverines came up with big shots at the end of each set and joined Dimond as the only undefeated teams left in the double-elimination tournament at Chugiak High.
"We knew it was going to be a really tough game going into it," Morehouse said. "Our energy was so up and we believed we could all do it."
The win puts the Wolverines in a 7 p.m. semifinal match Friday against a familiar foe -- Dimond, which advanced by sweeping Colony and Palmer. Leah Swiss racked up double figures in kills and digs in both matches to lead the defending champion Lynx.
The two Cook Inlet Conference teams have faced off in the last three state title matches, with Dimond winning twice. The winner of Friday's match will secure a spot in Saturday's 6 p.m. championship and the loser will drop into a loser-out match at noon.
South survived some tense moments to get past Kodiak. The first set was the most intense of the three, with Shelby Little (seven kills) closing it out with a kill. The teams were tied 24-24 and traded blows to a 26-26 tie before the Wolverines pulled away.
The second set was tied 21-21 before South closed with four straight points. In the third set, the Wolverines clung to a 22-21 lead before ending it with three straight points.
Kayla Sims dished 39 assists and Aspen Avery produced 28 digs to go with twin sister Sierra Avery's seven kills.
Hannah Wandersee's 11 kills led Kodiak, with Meli Matautia striking for 10. Summer McKechnie fueled the Bears' attack with 30 assists and Isabelle Riina turned in 22 digs for a squad that matched up well with South at every turn.
"They have fast outside sets and they're really scrappy and they get a bunch of tips," Aspen Avery said. "It's hard to get a ball down on them. They're a really good team."
South's win over Kodiak was a huge confidence booster, she said, because Kodiak had defeated the Wolverines in an early-season tournament.
"Tomorrow, if we play as good as we did tonight, our team will be unstoppable," she said.
South earned a shot at Kodiak by taking a first-round victory over West Valley, a 25-18, 25-10, 25-8 triumph that included 28 assists from Sims, 22 digs from Aspen Avery, seven kills from Morehouse and five kills from Sierra Avery.
Kodiak can still make a run for a title, but will need to navigate the losers bracket to do so. The Bears will next face the winner of a Friday loser-out match between Colony and Juneau.
Defending champion Dimond also won two matches Thursday, sweeping Colony 25-12, 25-17, 25-14 in the first round and Palmer 25-13, 25-21, 25-16 in the winners bracket.
Swiss tallied a combined for 34 kills and 28 digs in the two wins. Chrisalyn Johnson combined for 16 kills and 27 digs, and Jenna Mixson helped orchestrate the offense with a combined 32 assists.
Rohyn Huss, who notched seven kills in the win over Colony, was a force from the service line in both matches, which helped her earn player of the match honors in the Colony match.
Reach Jeremy Peters@adn.com or 257-4335.
By JEREMY PETERS