South upends Dimond to reach volleyball title match

Jeremy PetersThe New York Times

It took a fifth set in the fifth match against Dimond this season, but South finally defeated the Lynx on the volleyball court Friday night.

The Wolverines picked a good time to figure out Dimond, because the 17-25, 27-25, 24-26, 25-22, 15-13 win came in the semifinals of the Class 4A state tournament, securing South a spot in the championship match for the fourth straight season.

The Wolverines staged a dramatic comeback at Chugiak High, erasing a six-point deficit in the final set to seal the deal on a hard kill by Shelby Little.

"We worked so hard and we've done so much as a team," Little said. "I'm beyond proud of my team."

Little, who finished with eight kills and four blocks, ripped the shot from the middle of the net and the ball shot quickly to the back left corner. She said she felt good about it the moment she hit the ball, but she watched it all the way to the floor just to be sure. As soon as it hit, Little erupted in celebration with her teammates on the court.

"South was almost flawless," Dimond coach Kim Lauwers said. "They served the ball well, passed the ball well, they stayed in system. We fought hard, but when it's close and you make a few errors, it's gonna bite you."

Defending champion Dimond, which hadn't lost a match all season, led 9-3 in the fifth set, but South battled back to tie it 11-11. The Lynx took a 12-11 lead on a South service error, but they gave the Wolverines a 13-12 advantage with two consecutive hitting errors. Dimond tied it at 13-13 before South closed with two straight kills.

The Lynx are still alive in the double-elimination tournament and can earn another shot at South with a win in a loser-out match at noon Saturday. The Lynx will play the winner of a 10 a.m. match between Chugiak and Kodiak; if they win that match, they will face South in the championship match for the fourth straight season.

Dimond won titles in 2010 and 2012, and South won the 2011 title.

The championship match is scheduled for 6 p.m.

The Lynx were impressive throughout the match, getting numerous wicked kills from Leah Swiss, who finished with 37 to go with 23 digs.

Chrisalyn Johnson turned in a 13-kill, 16 dig effort, with Allie McDonnell adding 29 assists and Heidi Andrus contributing 42 digs for Dimond.

South, led by 12 kills from Tatum Upchurch and 10 apiece from Sierra Avery and Holly Morehouse, lost two regular-season matches to Dimond and two more in last week's Cook Inlet Conference championship.

The Wolverines pushed Dimond to five sets in the first meeting at the CIC tournament, but fell in three sets in the title match after battling back through the losers bracket in a double-elimination format.

After suffering tough losses to Dimond all season, coming into Friday's match with confidence was a challenge, said South's Caitlin Sweeney, whose kill ended the fourth set.

"We're not scared of them," Sweeney said. "We just want it so bad. Before the game, we were coming together. It was good tonight."

All five sets were tense, see-saw affairs, but the fourth set was the tightest. Neither team led by more than one point en route to a 22-22 tie. Then South pulled away with three straight points, a run punctuated by a crafty, two-handed dump from Sweeney.

"We haven't really been able to close all season," Sweeney said. "You just have to have no fears and go for it."


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